This month.....

Another momentous anniversary approaches

Back in June it was anounced that the early May Bank holiday in 2020 was being moved from Monday 4th May to Friday 8th May so as to conincide with the 75th Aniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day for our younger readers). For me it doesn’t seem 5 minutes since we were marking the 50th Aniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. But as I say to the children in our schools when I’m cheekily requesting that they stop growing, getting older is my problem not theirs.

Many commemorative events are being planned and being encouraged to happen over the early May Bank holiday weekend next year including:

  • the Nation’s Toast, where over 20,000 pubs will encourage patrons to raise a glass to the Heroes of World War II
  • bagpipers playing the traditional Battle’s O’er at the top of the 4 highest peaks in the UK – Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England, Mount Snowdon in Wales, and Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland
  • bells in churches and cathedrals across the country joining forces in a special Ringing Out for Peace
  • local street parties and celebrations across the 3-day weekend

    Hopefully we will get fuller details in good time as I wasn’t aware of these events until I consulted the internet!

    But of course, the main act of Remembrance in our country’s life will happen this month on the 11th November and on Remembrance Sunday the day before, 10th November. A couple of years ago I included in my article my memories of Remembrance Sunday when I was a child (50 years ago now!). In the parish church where I grew up World War One veterans sat on one side of the church and World War Two veterans sat on the other. The WWI veterans really didn’t want the WWII veterans there at all, 11th November was their event the WWII veterans should have their own event.

    Well thankfully Remembrance Sunday is not what it was in those days. If it had stayed the same then after 25th July 2009 (the day Harry Patch died, the last British Tommy) there would have been no one present at the Cenotaph and the war memorials of our country. Remembrance Sunday has transformed into a day when we remember all those who have died, been injured and affected by conflict. As Remembrance Sunday has changed so the age range and backgrounds of those attending has changed, as has what is being remember. It’s not just honouring those who died in WWI anymore.

    Last year I was thrilled to see the uniformed organisations present with us and I look forward to seeing them again. Their presence took me right back to my childhood when I was in their place. It’s important that we have that wide range of ages and backgrounds present. From the elderly person who has made a monumental effort to be with us to the babes in arms (parents please do bring babies with you and if they cry during the two minute silence please don’t be worried, I won’t be) all are welcome and are an important part in keeping Remembrance Sunday as an important day in our nation’s life.

    As I write this I am reminded again of the importance of Remembrance Sunday as Turkish troops move into Northern Syria. Looking at a list on ongoing conflicts in Wikipedia there is a long list of places caught up in conflict. Even if the number of deaths in conflict per year is falling the total killed in conflict in our world last year was about 140,000. One is too many. So, the need for us to Remember remains and even if we lived in a world where there was no conflict we would still need to Remember and work for peace.

    Wishing you peace as we remember those who lived and live in contexts of conflict.

    Richard Curtis