Remembrance Day 2006
DARE NOT FORGET THOSE WHO FOUGHT FOR FREEDOM" by Mike Webb
Remembrance Day 2006 will be observed on Sunday, November 12.
The annual service, incorporating the two-minute silence at
11am, will be held at the war memorial outside the town council
offices. As in previous years, no doubt an informal gathering of
Dovorians will also be there at 11am on Saturday November 11,
when the Dover branch of the Royal Artillery Association will
fire a gun from the castle to indicate the start and finish of
that day's silence. This commemorates the 11th hour on the 11th
day of the 11th month, when the guns finally fell silent after
the carnage of the Great War - "the war to end all wars".
Since then, however, there have been more than 125 armed
conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who fought in
the Great War have spoken of comrades standing in mud-filled
trenches waiting to go "over the top", through barbed wire, to
almost certain death.
On Remembrance Sunday such knowledge should both inspire and
serve as a warning. We must always remain willing to show our
respects to those who gave their lives for the freedom and
security we take for granted. We must teach the next generation
to respect the sacrifices made for them, but we must also think
ahead. The generations ravaged by war are now fewer in number so
we have few witnesses to the horror and madness. Soon their
contribution will pass into history. Yet history is essential to
any society; it acts as its collective archive.
However, this is not the same thing as remembrance, which is
just as important. According to one school of thought national
rituals should be phased out as the survivors of the world wars
diminish in number. I believe the opposite is true. As each
generation passes it is all the more important that the nation
cherish the ceremonies and social practice that remind us of
Remembrance rituals are not simply a means of honouring the dead
and saluting those who survived. They remind us of where we came
from and what we are now allowed to be What precisely is
it that we remember on this special day?
It is not, as some allege, the vulgar values of jingoism, but
the dignity and the courage of which men and women prove capable
at times of supreme hardship. The poppy signifies not he defeat
of the enemy, but the lesson that survives the dead; that
flowers will rise from the soil of the battlefields that are
turned into graves.
We live in an age of prosperity and opportunity. The privations
and suffering of the war generations are all but unimaginable to
us. But beneath our culture of contentment lurks
dissatisfaction, a desire that the decline of deference should
not mean the death of courtesy. And that, the spread of wealth
should not create poverty of the spirit.
Even today, we trust those who risk their lives for us and we
look to them as an example. Today's squaddie in the Middle East
is no less to be admired and honoured than the Tommies in
Flanders. What connects them across the generations is the
amazing ability of the human spirit to show grave under
It is easy to fall prey to pessimism and conclude that the
values of the two world wars no longer exist. There are times
when this seems to be the case. On our streets, there is a sense
that civility is lessening, contributing to a post-Millennium
fatalism. But that fatalism is not justified. Against the
evidence of decline must be weighted the dedication of British
forces around the world, added to the perseverance of the
It is striking that so many young people wear poppies with pride
- they understand that the flower is symbolic of something
precious - they grasp the spirit. Remembrance is not only the
tribute we pay to the dead. It is also how we seek to inspire
the living and to preserve what is good for those not yet born.
So please join us on those important dates, when representatives
of many ex-service and youth organisations parade with their
standards. The events of recent years have brought the reality
of war into the lives of many young people for the first time.
This article first appeared in the Dover
Express, p18, 26th October 2006
reproduced with permission