I am writing this out of sheer frustration at the shambles of a remembrance event I attended yesterday. I’ve been trying to get over my annoyance but can’t seem to shrug it off. So, if you’ll bear with me, I feel the need to put pen to paper as it were.
I make sure that I mark Remembrance Sunday each year, because I feel a duty to acknowledge the events which so fully and wholly have changed our nation and made us able to live the lives we do today.
Individually, many of us have been personally touched by war through the experiences of our own families and Remembrance Sunday gives us the opportunity to collaboratively, as a nation, recognise and remember the sacrifice made by so many to defend our country’s freedom.
On Remembrance Sunday I solemnly observe the two minutes silence at 11 o’clock wherever I may be. The spectacle, if you will, of a nation observing this moment together is so poignant.
Yesterday, on the centenary of Armistice day I decided to attend the Remembrance event in my local Norfolk town. I did so because I felt compelled to share this momentous milestone with other people in the shadow of our town’s war memorial. I also wanted to observe the event to remember my great-grandfathers, Elvin and William.
Elvin served in the Essex Regiment and then the Suffolk Regiment in France, survived the war, but died in 1920 at the age of 40 – which Grandad always said was as a result of the war. William was in the Rifle Brigade and fought on the Somme during 1916, but was killed, along with his 2 men, near Arras on 2nd September 1918, when a German shell burst in his Lewis gun emplacement.
However, attending the Remembrance commemorations filled me with anger and sorrow.
In an event which saw the parade muster early before the laying of wreaths, an ill-functioning pa system struggled to transmit the voice of the vicar who, as far as I could understand it, said, at about 10.50am, that we were ten minutes from 11am and because of the youngsters in the parade, the remembrance event would continue ahead of schedule.
I didn’t really have time to compute the consequences of this until the last post began and the hundreds of people gathered collectively observed the two minutes of silence. After a dedication from the vicar the local Royal British Legion official dismissed the parade and thanked us all for coming.
The crowds started to move and the hubbub of voices struck up again. I could do nothing but turn in stunned silence to my partner – as the town clock began to strike 11.
While the rest of the nation was joined in respectful silence, we had been ‘dismissed’.
My partner and I moved away together, walking the five minutes back to our car, in silence. We were both stunned and saddened at the lack of respect that had clearly been shown for, what is, a tradition and a moment of national contemplation. Are you honestly telling me that the officials running the event thought that everyone gathered – who had made the effort to attend a Remembrance event – were not prepared to wait 10 minutes until 11am for the silence – that is why we were all there.
Surely a small wait in autumnal sunshine is nothing compared to the horrors that our forces, from the First World War onwards, have had to endure.
As we all know, the silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when the guns of Europe fell silent. The silence is at 11am for that reason. If you’re going to carry it out at 10.50am you might as well carry it out in June.
In the grand scheme of things this isn’t important, but, do you know what, it bloody well is. If I’m in the wrong by the consensus so be it but, I am thoroughly disgusted.
As someone else said – by what delegated authority did the Chaplain have the right to make Harleston’s Remembrance Sunday fall so out of step with the rest of this Island?