I have never been one for symbols or logos of any sort. However in my younger days I have bought and worn the remembrance poppy without giving it much thought, but recently that has changed and I now am acutely aware of the remembrance poppy and the way it is used and abused.
REGIMENTED & PARTISAN
I don’t need the government/mainstream media to tell me I should remember the war dead by wearing a poppy at a certain time of year (a period that increases each year) as I remember those who fought and died in past wars unbidden.
Another thing I object to is the fact that the poppy limits the extent of remembrance. The red poppy is synonymous with, and exclusive to, the British/Commonwealth War dead and the propaganda that accompanies its sale ignores the casualties of war on the other side.
I have just finished a tribute to my wife’s late uncle, Dunfermline soldier David Hutchison who was killed in the Belfast Blitz when a landmine dropped from a Luftwaffe bomber blew him and many more of his comrades to smithereens. There were no remains found so his mother’s grief was endless.
Am I supposed to remember David and my own British uncles who fought for their country, but not pay tribute to my German uncle, Kurt Brogatzki, a Luftwaffe POW who married my aunty Pat and settled in England?
Kurt’s time as a prisoner-of-war must have been made worse by the fact that he knew his own home city of Cologne was being bombed, like Belfast, to smithereens.
As someone who is mainly Irish descended I don’t know for sure, but would imagine that some of my distant ancestors would have fought in the various independence struggles over the centuries that England/Britain occupied that country.
I wonder if those who urge the wearing of the poppy would approve if I chose to wear an Easter Lilly to remember those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish independence? Well I don’t really wonder I know that they wouldn’t because they are partisan.
JUST WARS OR JUST ANY BRITISH WAR?
Born in 1945, my perception is that once, “Poppy Day”, was held to remember the fallen in the noble cause of World War One. A war, we were taught at school, which had saved Europe from the barbarous Bosch. There is no doubt that in the early years of this war (1914-15) many of those who fought this war believed this to be the case, but from 1916-1918 many were forced into service by conscription, and by then many doubted the reasons for the war.
I read today in the Dunfermline Press the moving account of one local hero, a DC winner who said when the Armistice was announced it was greeted in silence. He never heard a single cheer.
Today, with the benefit of access to knowledge that our ancestors didn’t have, we can reasonably assume that it wasn’t the case that Great Britain acted out of the most noble principles when she purportedly came to the assistance of poor little peaceful Belgium, which was in brutal Germany’s way as it sought to take on liberty-loving France.
It seems clear to me that all the participants in World War One were colonial expansionist nations seeking a bigger part of the global cake that was up for grabs. As they had done for years.
The image of poor little Catholic Belgium, which was used to persuade Irish nationalist opposed to British rule to throw their lot behind their oppressor, seems laughable today, when we now know that in King Leopold II of Belgium’s greedy exploitation of the African Congo a few years earlier up to 10 million Congolese had died at the hands of Belgian masters who treated them worse than animals. LINK
Natives in the French and German colonies in Africa fared little better and Great Britain was, and for some time had been involved in similar barbarity in China, India, and South Africa where our noble forces had perfected the art of rounding up civilians and putting them into concentration camps. LINK
So I don’t buy all this stuff about the First World War being noble. Nor do I accept that our ignoble efforts ended back in the 20th century.
One only has to look at the recent Old Bailey court case LINK, which proved that Britain tortured and killed many innocent Mau Mau people in Kenya for evidence of recent brutal colonial behaviour.
More recently the invasion of Iraq and bombing of Libya (leaving that country a basket case) show that our arrogant and bloody global intervention in the world is still active, though now, only as a subservient partner; a bit player to the new superpower.
Apologists for militarism and the poppy point to the Second World War as exemplifying a just conflict. I can see the force of that argument, but the punishment of Germany after the First World War provided the fertile breeding ground that allowed Hitler to rise to power and try to join the club of conquerors. A German Empire or Reich consisting of stolen foreign territories just like the British Empire was what he aspired to.
As I see it, lumping the principled fight against Nazism of 1939/45 in with the dozens of unprincipled imperial adventures from the Opium Wars to the present day is the way the military establishment have of getting the public to approve of their actions by a subtle form of emotional blackmail and I want no part of it.
WHY DON’T WE REMEMBER CIVILIANS?
Our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women are commemorated but why don’t we give the innocent civilians who die in conflicts any recognition?
I was bitterly opposed to the impending war in Iraq and, for the first time in my life marched to protest the coming carnage.
Later, with the war in full swing I was sickened by the scenes I saw on the TV. Any decent human being couldn’t help but be appalled by the first night’s bombardment of Baghdad. I imagined the horror of the poor men, women and children who were underneath this rain of high explosives.
But I must be in the minority because the TV newscasters, while not celebrating the bombing, certainly didn’t give a minute’s thought to the innocents underneath it, and later the BBC brought us live coverage from inside a Royal Navy nuclear submarine where high-fives were given by the crew after firing Cruise missiles at targets given by the US led task force.
Given the number of times the US forces have admitted “collateral damage”, that leave innocents incinerated or left maimed by faulty targeting or intelligence failures, I was appalled by this gung-ho attitude. It was as if civilians and especially, brown, mainly Muslim Iraqi ones didn’t matter.
Well they matter to me and I went to see my MP to ask her to find out how many innocent civilians were killed at that time and how many children orphaned as a result of our invasion of Iraq. I followed up my visit by a formal request in writing LINK
My MP agreed to ask the questions I posed her, but then did an about turn and advised me that the government don’t keep count of such things. LINK
I think it was more a case of such deaths don’t count rather than they don’t keep count.
So to me ignoring civilian deaths on both sides of a conflict is wrong. Those killed by deliberate bombing of civilian targets by the Luftwaffe and those [in far greater numbers] killed by the RAF would have to be part of any remembrance for it to have any sort of meaningful purpose in my opinion.
How can lessons be learned if we don’t even recognise the extent of the problem?
THE POPPY HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY POLITICIANS AND PR PROJECTS.
As I see it Poppy Day, has now become a poppy 1-month+ charade. A sanitised PR event to remember the British dead of all wars, good or bad, and in so doing, tacitly approve of the current unpopular and almost certainly illegal wars and it is wrong.
It is best summed-up by RAF veteran and author Harry Leslie Smith thus: “Remembrance Sunday has become a political act that exonerates our past and former governments from illegal wars like Iraq”
The latest sanitisation of World War One is the display of poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, which has become a tourist attraction and has received wide acclaim from the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson who called Royal palace chiefs to beg for it to run an extra week or two.
I couldn’t disagree more, to commission this piece of visual art entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” as a tourist attraction/money spinner, makes a mockery of those poor, brave, unfortunates who gave their lives for a cause they thought was just, but which was in my opinion a lie.
But even if it were true that the Kaiser was the bloodthirsty warmongering ogre that our press claimed him to be, is it appropriate that his cousin’s Saxe-Coburg-Gotha great-grandchildren should milk the remembrance sentiment with a photo-op of them wading through the sea of poppies in the moat?
Another sanitised money-spinning event has been dreamed up by the Royal British Legion, who have bastardised, and released for sale a version of Eric Bogle’s classic anti-war song The Green Fields of France. Without the verse containing the anti-war message it is of course meaningless. LINK
Perhaps the most obscene sponsoring of the poppy comes with the news that one of the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers, Lockheed is sponsoring a Poppy Ball. The makers of cluster bombs, land-mines and guided missiles raising money for remembrance of those maimed by such weapons isn’t lost on journalist and author George Monbiot who has thrown his poppy in the bin and vowed never to wear one again. LINK
At this rate Walt Disney Studios will be buying all copyrights to the Great Disney War!
GOVERNMENT’S PHONEY COMPASSION
The UK government is two-faced in their faux-concern regarding the welfare of injured or aged servicemen who are cast aside when their disability or age makes them unsuitable for action and that is why a duty-of-care function is palmed off to the charity sector and organisations such as the British Legion.
I think it is obscene that a government that can find any amount of money to spend on armaments and wars cannot fund the care for those injured in these wars, but instead rely on charity from such as Poppy Scotland and the British Legion.
Would it not be better to pay for the care of the injured soldiers through taxes and only buy armaments from the money raised through charitable donations?
Or what about if the politicians who voted for wars were compelled by legislation to provide one family member to serve on the front line?
If this were done we would soon see no more wars and no more injured soldiers sailors and airmen.
I have every sympathy for those who bravely fought for their country, but little for those who propagate wars and pretend to care for old soldiers.
I have researched the lives of family members who served in the arms forces and from my experiences would give this warning to anyone who does similar: Have your cheque book handy. At every turn you will be asked to fork out money to find out how your ancestors/relatives, fought, bled and died for their country.
CONCLUSIONS ON POPPY DAY AND REMEMBRANCE
I must conclude that after taking everything into account, I oppose the red poppy. It is a sham. And as for the argument that it is not an excuse to glorify or legitimise war; just watch this video of servicemen and women celebrating Remembrance Day at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, home of Rangers, the quintessentially British football club in 2012:
Rule Britannia, the Sash and other Unionist/ Ulster Protestant hymns belted out at a joyous, jingoistic, jamboree. The dying embers of an empire mindset there for all to see as the curtain of remembrance slips and show us a glimpse of the truth.