I don't believe that war is the answer, or conflict, or violence. Having long ago been a history student and studied the reasons that war has been entered into, I get angered that arguments between a tiny group of people, family spats, extreme political ideology and so forth, lead to the deaths of sometimes millions of ordinary men and women who often had no idea what they were really fighting and working for and what cause was theirs.
Remembrance for me has nothing to do with patriotism, for after all we should include in our remembrances, those from other countries who also paid the ultimate sacrifice for they were ordinary men and women caught up in something much larger than themselves too. One only has to walk around The German War Graves Cemetery at Cannock Chase to see that. I also remember that it wasn't just young men and women from the UK who fought 'on our side'. They were joined by many nationalities and creeds from all around what are now Commonwealth countries and some too that do not wish to belong to the Commonwealth. Remembrance isn't just a white British thing and those who wish to hijack this season of remembrance for their own right wing political ends would do well to remember that.
But it isn't just those who were involved in the conflict that for me, should be remembered. I also remember those whose lives were drastically changed by conflict. My maternal Grandmother and her sisters grew up without a Father. My paternal Grandfather came home from WW1 but the privations of service left him with a weakened body leading to a premature death. This led to my Father growing up without his Father around. My Father saw active service in Korea whilst ostensibly on National Service. Just 18 years old. He never speaks of what he saw and experienced but I know it still plays on his mind especially that now he is the only one of his group that remains alive.
The ripples of war reach out down the decades and centuries. What was done cannot be undone. The consequences are not just for the generation that lived it but for those that follow too. Emotional scars that cannot be healed. Poverty endured because a parent wasn't there. The Poppy Appeal as we now call it was originally set up as The Haig Fund by Field Marshall Douglas Haig to assist ex servicemen. That we still need a Poppy Appeal now in the 21st century, along with all the other charities specifically and more recently set up such as Help for Heroes, in one of the largest economies of the world, speaks volumes about how this country supports it's ex servicemen and women. Successive governments have failed them and their families as the governments that sent so many to be slaughtered not just on the battlefields of Europe but further away too, failed in the past.
Just recently I learned that my Father's first cousin, an Aldridge man born and bred, was one of the last men to die before the Armistice came into effect at 11 am on the 11th November 1918. The war diary for his regiment reads:
"....at 10.10 hours, received an order that hostilities would cease at 11.00 hours, this order only reached coys a few minutes before that hour. Enemy artillery remained active to the last and No. 54854 Pte J Frost of 'A' company was fatally wounded by a shell less than ten minutes before the armistice commenced"
He was 19 years old.
This weekend I will be remembering the following, some who died in conflict, some who died afterwards and I will also be remembering those they left behind, those that missed, grieved and mourned them and whose lives were never the same again.
Corporal John Thomas Mason
Lance Corporal Charles Mason Died 10 May 1915
Private Eli William Frost
Private James Henry Ernest Frost Died 11 November 1918
Private William Plant Died 10 March 1915
Gunner Frank Plant
Gunner Charles Frederick Cook
Private Frank Keys Died 14 July 1916
Private Harry Keys
Private Francis Leslie Phillips Died 20 July 1916