Thursday, November 15, 2007

Remembrance Sunday

Here in the UK, it was Remembrance Day on Sunday. Veterans’ Day in the States?

I was watching The Wright Stuff last week Friday. Well, I don’t actually watch it as my eyes are on the computer screen, which means my back is to the TV. But it was on. They were talking about whether or not to wear a poppy in the days coming up to Remembrance Sunday. Somebody made reference to ‘poppy fascism’.

Being from the States, I did not grow up with poppies, and I don’t wear one now. I certainly don’t need to wear one to remember the honoured dead.

My Dad was in the war. Obviously, he didn’t die, or I would not be here. But he and his comrades risked their lives so that we could have a better world. To me, those men are heroes.

I note Ian Hislop’s excellent series, “Not Forgotten”, about the people listed on First World War memorials, is being given another airing on Channel 4. One of the many things I enjoyed about the series was the fact that he devoted an entire programme to those from the Empire who served in the British forces. Those whose experience and sacrifice are usually consigned to one sentence – something like, ‘And many people from the empire joined up to serve King and country’.

I do recall one programme some years ago – also on Channel 4 – about soldiers from the Caribbean who were recruited into the British Army during the First World War. The ship that took them to France sailed via the North Pole, but the Caribbean soldiers were not issued with the winter uniforms that were on board. Many of the men suffered frostbite and had to have limbs amputated.

So much for serving King and country.

The Black soldiers were not issued with rifles. I don’t know whether the white people thought they were too stupid to use them, or were afraid of finding themselves at the business end of them.

That programme went on to say that German prisoners were kept in heated barracks, whilst the Caribbean soldiers, from the tropics, shivered in unheated quarters.

So I feel somewhat ambivalent when I see a Black person sporting a poppy. I want all of those who served their countries to be remembered, along with their suffering and sacrifices.

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