November 11th…..Armistice Day.

Until in her late nineties mother used to march past the Cenotaph for the annual ceremony of remembrance whether on foot or, in later years, pushed in a wheelchair by a chum from the Brigade of Guards .

Father would never attend any such ceremony, considering it all a masquerade which glorified the deaths and wounds of those who were sent to war for interests that were not their own.

Mother wanted to march with her comrades.

Father turned his back on the whole thing.

But on some things they were agreed. Those who died in war did not ‘sacrifice’ their lives…….they were killed, wounded, potentially maimed for life both mentally and physically, in actions ordered by their governments.

Governments which do and have not given a toss for those who serve in their wars. Plenty of lip service and ceremony, but a U.K. Ministry of Defence which throws money at inept procurement projects while sending the human beings out in the field with defective equipment to take their chance. Discharged veterans without aid and support, some even on the streets.

Further, those who go to war have a strong bond of solidarity…they look after each other through thick and thin…something in civilian, in political life, in these days of identity politics we seem to have forgotten.

Can you imagine them not going to the aid of a comrade because he voted for Brexit….was of a different skin colour….approved of Trump? No, you can not. They will bring him in and argue about their differences later.

It is a lesson we can learn from those who volunteer to defend their country…though all too often they end up defending some other country’s interests.

In civilian, in political life we should stop identifying people by the labels either they or others give them.

We need to band together to defend the values which we need to have a healthy society.

Good housing, good education, real employment.

We can argue about our differences when we have won.

And on a personal note, here is something that brings back memories of mother.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea offers care and accommodation for a limited number of veterans, known as the Chelea Pensioners and recognised by their red coats and black tricorne hats.

Every year at the Royal British Legion Ceremony of Remembrance they make their entry, clapped to their place on the stand to the accompaniment of ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’.

And every year, without fail, mother would greet their entry with a cry of ‘Creepers!’ and then have to take to her handkerchief as she remembered the ‘boys of the old brigade’ now gone.

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November 11th

On this day…11th November…we remember the armistice that ended the Great War, that of 1914 – 1918 and in Europe we tend to think of the rows of stones in the cemeteries scattered over France and Belgium like the petals of the poppies that fall in the Albert Hall during the British Legion service of remembrance.

But it was not just a European war….nor one just involving the troops of the colonies and commonwealth.
It was a war fought on many fronts…including Gallipoli…. and I would like to bring to the fore one memorial there, on the clifftops.

A memorial in English, placed there by the Turks.

ataturk memorial

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives …

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours …

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears;

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well.

Atatürk, 1934

Kemal Ataturk was not just the military commander who held those heights…who repulsed all that valour could do on the part of the forces of Britain and the Commonwealth…he became the man who led Turkey out of feudalism, of subjection to religion…who brought that sleeping giant to life after the long years of the decay of the Ottoman empire.

For those moved by what is written on that memorial – please take a look at what is now happening in Turkey: the reintroduction of religious oppression, the attacks on freedom of speech, the violent crushing of dissent.

Those words could not be written by the current leaders of Turkey…who pay lip service to the man whose every tenet they wish to overthrow.