Remembrance Day 2007
SHALL GROW NOT OLD - AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD"
Bob Markham, The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Dover
nation on November 11, the country's war dead will be remembered
and their contribution to freedom acknowledged. Nowhere is that
sense of history felt as keenly as it is in Dover, as the town's
current mayor Bob Markham explains ....
Remembrance Sunday will be observed on November 11. The annual
service incorporating the two minutes' silence at 11am will be
held at the war memorial, outside the town council offices. An
ever-increasing number of Dovorians attend, wearing their
poppies with pride, to show gratitude for their hard-won
liberty, for which so many died. I would like to appeal to all
to bring younger family members, and to encourage family groups:
"Lest we forget".
Young people benefit from the powerful message and symbolism of
Remembrance Sunday, and from family participation on that
landmark occasion. The act of remembrance enables their learning
of the price paid for the hard-won democracy and freedom they
now enjoy. Many decry our young folk. Here, though, is a chance
for them to learn respect for and responsibility towards others.
This, in a democracy, is the other side of the coin to
individual freedom and rights.
So join us, as the Dover branch of the Royal Artillery
Association fires a salvo from our castle to indicate the start
of the reflective period of silence. The poignant hush
commemorates the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,
when the guns finally fell silent after the carnage of the First
Originally called the Great War, this was the war to end all
wars". How ironic that sounds; for, since then, the Red Cross
estimates that more than 130 armed conflicts have ensured,
including our armed forces' current deployment in Iraq and
Given its earth-shaking importance, the Great War is rightly
enshrined within the national curriculum. The battlefields and
war cemeteries in France and Belgium are regularly visited by
our schoolchildren. Dover's heartfelt remembrance will help them
appreciate this defining period of world history.
The Great War swept empires away, sowed the seeds for the
dissolution of the British Empire, replacing them with the
independent nation states, which comprise the map of Europe
today. In 1914, war clouds gathered, inexorably, as the
simmering rivalries worsened between the armed alliances which
divided Europe. The dangerous rising tensions were personified
by the aged Austrian Emperor, France Joseph, Germany's Kaiser
Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and George V, King of
Britain and the Empire. Of these four powerful entities, only
that of the British would still exist as the war limped to its
bloody and exhausted conclusion.
The powder keg erupted when Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the
Austrian throne, was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist (echoes
of more recent, similar problems). Europe's fragile peace died
with him. Caught in the grand framework of the titanic struggle
were millions of young men.
Mobilisation ensured that these innocents were condemned to
fight a vicious war of attrition and to live and die through the
stalemate and slaughter on the Western Front. Our soldiers have
spoken of living in two feet of water, in mud-filled
rat-infested trenches. They were but cannon-fodder, awaiting the
unimaginable terror of going "over the top" through barbed wire,
to face almost certain death. The scale of carnage was
mind-blowing, given there were some 400 miles of opposing trench
systems, the remains of which can still be seen and shuddered
Yet there is a deeper meaning for this period. It marked the
birth of our current age of mass participation, social equality,
liberation of women and minorities, and the thrust forward in
technology. Not all such changes augured well, as shown by the
folly of the Second World War, the conflicts in Korea, Suez, and
the seemingly endless list of wars that is still being added to.
On Remembrance Sunday, such knowledge should act to inspire us
while acting as a warning. We must remain willing to show
respect to those who died for the freedom which we take for
granted. We must teach the next generation to respect the
sacrifices made for them and we must think ahead.
There are now fewer left of the generations ravaged by warfare,
so few witnesses to offer testament to the horrors and madness.
Soon their contribution will become history. But history and
remembrance are essential in society as its collective archive.
According to some, national rituals such as Remembrance Sunday
should be phased out as survivors of our national conflicts
diminish in number. I believe the opposite is true. As
generations pass and there are fewer veterans to offer
first-hand testimony, it is critical that the nation cherish the
ceremonies and social practice that remind us of their
Our rituals are not simply a means of honouring the dead and
saluting those who survived. They are a means of reminding
ourselves of where we came from and what, thanks to them, we are
no allowed to aspire to be.
We owe a debt that can never be repaid. This is why Dover Town
Council has strongly supported the Dover War Memorial Project
www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk) and the campaign for the
George Cross for Dover.
Our young need inculcating into respect for our history, which
enables them their freedom. So please join us and
representatives of many ex-service and youth organisations
parading their standards.
Recent Middle-Eastern events have brought the reality of war
into the lives of many youngsters for the first time. It is
critical that the younger generations learn what Armistice Day
means and how vital the Poppy Appeal is in helping those who
suffered the horrors of war for us.
This article first appeared in the Dover
Express, p7, 2nd November 2007
reproduced with permission