So it’s remembrance weekend. And not only is it remembrance weekend, but this year Armistice Sunday and Remembrance Day both fall on the same day. And not only is it Remembrance Day, but it is the 99th Remembrance Day, for it is the 100th anniversary of the armistice which paused the hostilities of the ‘The Great War’, fortunately a long term pause. It can be easy to build up this year’s Remembrance Day as something extra major, extra special, extra important.
Amongst all the centenary fuss, I think what we need to be careful of – is retaining humility and focus.
Whether your unit are involved in a local commemoration event or not – doesn’t matter. Some are, and some aren’t.
Whether you have 1 girl or 101 girls attend the local commemoration event with your unit – doesn’t matter. It’s not a competition.
Whether your girls are wearing coats over their uniforms from start to finish of the event – doesn’t matter. You can’t concentrate of what is being said and done if you’re being distracted by shivering – and the armed forces members wouldn’t dream of parading without coats in November.
Whether one of the girls is wearing a lime green miniskirt, orange and purple stripe tights, and yellow sandals with pink pom poms with her uniform – doesn’t matter. It’s a remembrance parade, not a fashion parade, and it’s the remembrance that matters.
Whether one of your girls drops the flag – doesn’t matter. It’s been done before, it’ll be done again. It’s no time for rows or recriminations, just time to pick up the flag and put it back in it’s holster ready for the next part of the ceremonial.
Don’t let anyone upset you by claiming that any of these things actually matter. None of them do.
All that matters is that your girls, in their own way, at some time over the week running up to the day, have thought about the armed forces members, the civilians, the war workers, the conscientious objectors, those in reserved occupations, the refugees, the medics and nurses, the maimed or injured (whether physically or mentally or both), the widowed or orphaned, the ones left behind, or the ones who worked to aid postwar recovery. In World War 1, or World War 2, or any of the dozens of other conflicts and incidents which the British armed forces and civilians have been involved in over the past 100 years, or any of those we still are involved in.
Some girls may not want to take part in public commemorations for good reason, reasons they may be comfortable disclosing, or may not. Some may have other commitments on Sunday morning, but will still take a couple of minutes at 11 o’clock, wherever they are, to pause, and remember. They are still participating in remembrance just the same as those who do their remembering in public.
I appreciate that people do feel pride in a large turnout of girls, parading down the high street. And the public do notice it. But I feel just as proud of the girl who prefers to stay at home and quietly take time to remember in her own way. People do feel pride in smart uniforms on show - but I feel more pride in the girl who doesn’t own the bandbox-new uniform, who doesn’t have the ironed clothes and polished shoes laid out for her to just put on, and has to be grateful for what she has got to wear even if it doesn’t look as smart as what her better off sisters are wearing.
For what matters is each individual person, wherever they may happen to be, taking time at 11 am. A minute to thank those who served, and paid the cost of serving, whatever that cost may have been, or to think of how conflict affected their relatives or friends. And a minute to resolve to do all they can to ensure peace and friendship in the community, the country and the world, so that we might finally have had “the war to end all wars”.