The last century has seen a number of dates immortalised and seared into the public consciousness. The most recent pair would be 9/11 and 7/7. Dates that symbolise graves events that changed the world. But neither of them, nor any others, can quite match the importance of 11.11.11. I mean, it’s so important, the digits list not just the date and month, but the hour too.
Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. Veterans Day. Call it what you will, it is the day that nations stop and remember their fallen servicemen. This year has greater import than normal. It’s a hundred years since World War I began. The war to end all wars. Except, it didn’t turn out that way, did it.
I often think that the day might be more productively spent remembering the likes of Asquith, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Tsar Nicholas II, Franz Joseph and the Kaiser. And all the other political and military leaders that have since sent troops to their unnecessary and untimely deaths in battle. The foot soldiers themselves are memorable only for their unfortunate habit of running into bullets and blasts. Moments that they themselves would probably rather forget. Well, I guess they did just that, fairly instantly…
Perhaps we never learn from history, because we spend too much time looking at the wrong stories. I don’t wish to take anything away from the undoubted bravery of Britain’s fighting men, but there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel that any man or woman who has signed up to join the army, navy or air force in the last few decades has done so in the full knowledge that they are more likely to be sent to fight an immoral war in someone else’s country than to defend the motherland.
And yet, for all that, we do need a military force. Someone has to sign up. We have to trust in our governments decisions when it comes to armed conflict, and cross our fingers each time that this will be one of the more justifiable sorties. I guess there are 364 other days of the year to point fingers at the warmongers .
We went to the Tower of London this year, to see the vast swathe of ceramic poppies filling the moat. The display is now complete. More than 800,000 red dots, each signifying a British life lost. It’s an impressive sight, if impressive is the right word. Does it do justice to the scale of the conflict? I’m not sure. Previously, the losses seemed unfathomable. Hard to grasp. Unthinkable. Now we have a visual display that perhaps, somehow, makes the concept of 800,000 dead people a more manageable concept.
There were hymns being played. Militaristic hymns. Tunes that have been played down the decades and centuries. The state egging on the soldiers to war, assuring them that there’s a god on their side. That there is a moral justification for killing the enemy infidels. That’s an aspect of our culture that seems to be either missed or glossed over. Of course, when it’s a religiously brain washed foreigner charging to the chant of another god, we notice.
It’s kinda funny. Humans are far more similar than they are different. Even in their ability to perceive or create differences and their desire to snuff out those on the other side. Even now there are objections to any German joining in with a Remembrance Day service. Ignorant of the fact that war and division don’t end wars. Peace and unity ends war. Such is life.
Click here to see the full set of photos on Flickr.