It has been encouraging today to see the support for our armed forces, and the remembrance for those who have lost their lives in wars during the 20th century and in the first seven years of the 21st.
According to the BBC more than ever took part in the march past the Cenotaph, made up of veterans, and of some wives or children of ones who lost their lives. And there seemed to be a good number of spectators. Equally, services at war memorials across the country were well supported.
Television and radio have broadcast a number of programmes linking to the remembrance theme. By no means the least of these was the well-written story and beautifully acted drama about Rudyard Kipling’s son, Jack, shown on ITV1 this evening. Probably the theme of the story will have seemed incredible to younger viewers – that a young man could be so determined to join the army and serve in the trenches of France, when his eyesight meant he was as good as blind without his spectacles; and that a truly loving father could have been so determined that his son should serve that he pulled strings to get him accepted into the army. But that was public opinion in the early years of the Great War, when young men flocked to join up, and women denigrated those who did not. King and country meant so much then.
Getting back to the media today: newspapers, too, seem to have far more coverage of the Poppy appeal and remembrance events than they did even five years ago. Finally I’m pleased to say the blogging community, across the political spectrum, have marked the 11th November.
Just a couple of days a year to remember those who gave and are still giving so much; just a couple of pounds to give to the Poppy Appeal; not much to ask out of our modern, busy lives. Can we do more?
The Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall showed clearly what it is all about. The Torch of Remembrance was carried into the Hall by Corporal William Rigby, aged 24, from the 4th Battalion The Rifles, who has recently returned from a tour in Iraq, and whose twin brother, Corporal John Rigby, was killed while they were both serving in Iraq this year. The Book of Remembrance was carried in by Lance Corporal Michelle Norris, 20, the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross, which was for braving heavy sniper and machine-gun fire in Iraq. So young, both of them, but taking pride of place on the platform was Mr Harry Patch, one of a tiny number of survivors from the Great War, the last survivor of Passchendaele, and now aged 108.
We need to do all we can to help provide welfare benefits for veterans, old and young, and for their dependents. We need to fight for proper medical treatment for those now coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with terrible injuries, and for a secure financial future for those whose disablement means they will have to leave the services. We need to press the government to equip our service men and women to a high standard, whether it be vehicles, arms and ammunition, uniform and protective clothing, and to ensure there are sufficient for all of them. We need to press the government to provide housing of an acceptable standard both for single members of the forces and married quarters. We need to ensure that military hospital wards, staffed by military medical personnel, are available for recovering service men and women.
The following are all campaigning and supporting our armed forces:-
We can support the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal – http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/
We can support the newest group – Help for Heroes – http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ “What is H4H all about? It’s about the blokes. It’s about Derri, a rugby player who has lost both his legs, it’s about Carl whose jaw is wired up so he has been drinking through a straw. It’s about Richard who was handed a mobile phone as he lay on the stretcher so he could say goodbye to his wife. It is about Ben and it’s about them all. They are just blokes but they are our blokes; they are our heroes. We want to help our heroes.”
We can join the newly-formed UK National Defence Association, which aims to campaign for sufficient, appropriate and fully funded Armed Forces that the United Kingdom needs to defend effectively this Country, its people, their vital interests and security at home and throughout the world – http://www.uknda.org/
It all helps.