Today (at least it is when I’m writing this) is Remembrance Sunday in the UK; traditionally a day to commemorate the sacrifice of ordinary men in the two world wars.
I did not watch the ceremony at The Cenotaph, or attend any of the more local ceremonies, although I have in the past. But one thing that is a noticeable change since my childhood – there is a much greater emphasis on the sacrifices made by our armed forces in all wars up to and including the present.
Fair enough; I don’t have a problem with commemorating the war dead from any war, but the the armed forces already have a day – Armed Forces Day – and Remembrance Sunday is special. It is special because it remembers the two world wars when ordinary men were called to service in their droves; whereas other wars involved soldiers, sailors, and airmen who had chosen to be shot at for a living.
Before WWI, there was nothing like Remembrance Sunday despite all the wars that the UK fought before – nothing for the Boer War, the Crimean War, the Napoleonic Wars, and nothing before. There were war memorials constructed – as a resident of Portsmouth, I can visit an unusually large number, but as for national ceremonies … excluding the burial of heros such as Nelson, they had to wait until after WWI.
Perhaps we need to move the Armed Forces Day to next to Remembrance Sunday to more clearly distinguish between the two days.
Perhaps we also need to make the commemorations somewhat less military in nature – encourage those whose relatives served in the two world wars to attend in place of them. After all the number of world war veterans is dwindling; it won’t be too long before none of them are left, and it would be a great shame to leave Remembrance Sunday to the politicians and the present-day military.