The people of the UK (and indeed other places) are garlanded with poppies in remembrance of the soldiers who have lost their lives in the wars of the past and present. It is easy to get distracted by the politicians, the large ceremonies, and get confused about the purpose of the poppy and Remembrance Day. It is not about the glorification of war, or a bone thrown by the establishment – it is very much a grass roots thing better shown by local ceremonies.
Those local ceremonies in villages up and down the land involve a few old veterans laying wreathes of poppies at local war memorials built to commemorate the fallen from the local community. A few local dignitaries get involved too, but the ceremonies have little to do with them – they would take place even without them.
One of my favourite war memorials illustrates the point. Close to where my parents live is a small memorial :-
It isn’t a grand memorial – most villages have far more dramatic ones built in stone. But it was put up after World War I by the local community in remembrance not of the local people who had died but for the millions of men that the local community had seen march through the village on the way to the port of Southampton before departing for the front-line in France.
Whilst a cursory check of the history of Remembrance Day would seem to indicate that it was all a government thing, a deeper look indicates that whilst the establishment was involved, some of the initiatives were started by what were effectively ordinary people, and it was supported by the public at large.
As anyone who has been watching the news the last week knows, FIFA initially prohibited the England and Wales football teams from wearing the poppy during this weekend’s international fixtures but later backtracked from this under pressure from a variety of sources.
FIFAs initial ban on the poppy looks like gross foolishness, and indeed to a certain extent it is. But any organisation like FIFA is likely to be conservative and slow-moving in relation to making decisions about their rules, and you do have to wonder why the people wanting to start wearing poppies on their team strips during a football game left it until the last minute to query whether wearing poppies was ok.
FIFAs rules on emblems of a political or religious nature are probably quite sensible, and whilst the poppy is neither it would be sensible to allow for plenty of time to persuade FIFA that it should be allowed. A year would not be an unreasonable amount of time. Yet the England and Wales football teams only recently decided that they wanted to wear poppies on the field – this is a new thing and not something traditional.
You do have to think that FIFA has been treated a little unkindly over the last week.
Remembrance Day And Remembrance Sunday
It is strange how things change over time. When Remembrance Day was new, it was the main day for remembrance although not a public holiday. When I was growing up, the closest Sunday to Remembrance Day was called Remembrance Sunday and that was the main day for remembrance with Remembrance Day itself being a much quieter affair.
Today, the pendulum seems to be swinging back in favour of Remembrance Day rather than Remembrance Sunday. Of course the Sunday events are still far bigger, but Remembrance Day seems to be getting more and more attention every year. It is time to consider making Remembrance Day a public holiday so we can remember the dead on the real anniversary.