Poppies are blooming all over Britain today as a mark of unwavering respect for almost a century of fallen soldiers. On the 11th hour of the 11th month in 1918 the gunfire silenced and the remaining soldiers of WW1, who had been hauled up in the trenches of France and Germany were told they would be coming home alive. The elation and relief of returning to loved ones must have been immeasurable, but how could anyone who has had to endure conditions of bloodshed and constant fear ever forget what they had had to live through? And this was a privilege for only those lucky enough to have survived at all. Hundreds of soldiers were killed in the four year conflict, their lives taken in the battle to maintain the freedom of the countries they represented. Freedom is something we enjoy because of what our ancestors were willing to endure to ensure a liberal continuity, and what many of our military friends and family still withstand today. This isn’t a fact we can afford to let slip from our memories; if we lose sight of the sacrifices made to allow us liberty, we take freedom for granted and become further self-grasping.
Wearing the poppy isn’t about war, it’s not about supporting the causes of conflict, or about shaping sides of loyalty. Carrying the poppy is a symbol of respect for those people, past and present, who have fallen in the deed of protecting their homes at great personal sacrifice. War is a terrible thing, but in these places of cruelty and despair is the potential for immense humanity and kindnesses, much like a candle glowing brightest in a darkened room. From the churned up soils of the Western Front grew millions of dazzling red flowers, as though the earth bled in mourning of those who had fallen; a beautiful and peaceful memorial built from the bodies fertilizing the land. For two minutes on one day each year a nation stops to focus on the kindness of the people who died to ensure their liberties; they give thanks for the peace that came because so many died; we don’t fight, we don’t fret, we don’t even speak; we stop, we become still and we, for that brief time, are at peace with our private gratitude, and all because of the actions which fertilized the graciousness in our hearts. We have no right to forget.
I’ve been to the rows of nameless graves in France, and I have wondered who lay beneath them there. Who were they? What did they do? Whose family did they belong to? And did those family members ever know that this is where they rested? In this spot if rare tranquility I was inspired to consider that an Army is a collective term for a group of brave individuals, just people, with hearts strong enough to take a service to their country. Not just those who give the ultimate gift, but to the service-people who have been injured, permanently scared or disfigured, who have lost limbs and even sanity in the pursuit of a cause. Each and every single man who ventures to a battle-zone with the intention of protecting no matter the cost deserves our respect, and the attention of our thoughts for those few minutes on the 11/11.
I wear my poppy with pride, knowing that I live the way I do because of great unparalleled sacrifice of others, and I am eternally grateful. Thank-you if you are one of those people who have fought, or who are fighting for my continued freedom. I will forever try to honour you with actions of kindness, humbleness and fortitude. I will Not Forget.