November 10, 2013

Remembrance Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:25 pm

This morning, as I have for many years, I attended the Remembrance Sunday event at Doncaster Cenotaph to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the military and other services so that I might have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms I do. On leaving the event, as I usually do, I reflected on what I perceive as a number of failings in the event. Usually, out of respect for the event and all it represents, I would keep my observations to myself, and not make a song and dance about them. Today however I am going to do the precise opposite, and speak my mind – for much the same reasons.

To me, Remembrance Sunday serves two main purposes. It allows us to pause to acknowledge the huge sacrifices made by the armed forces in the defence of our freedoms, but it also serves as a reminder of the both the horror and folly of war. In recent years though, and particularly at the Doncaster event, I’ve become increasing disillusioned with the prominence of political figures.

At Doncaster, the various military participants of the event move into position, and are then held waiting for local dignitaries who walk in from the Regents Park, before the event is allowed to continue. For my money, that’s just the wrong way around. Politicians, let’s face it, are hardly blessed with an enviable reputation right now… MPs expenses haven’t been forgotten, and there is a general perception that many of our elected representatives are more interested in their own interests than in ever championing ours.

What the event should be about, in my view, is recognising the sacrifices made in defence of our freedoms. It would hardly be inappropriate therefore for our civil leaders and local dignitaries to show the armed forces proper respect, perhaps even deferrence, turn up at the start of the service, and await the arrival of the armed forces. It is the forces, not the politicians, that the event should cherish, but anyone familiar with proceedings at Doncaster might wonder if a mistake has been made somewhere along the way…

So, what I propose is this – the local dignitaries should arrive before any other participant at the event, and should wait, as the public do now, for all the armed forces to take their positions. As our representatives, they should represent our gratitude and respect for the armed forces. The public should be left in no doubt that it is the forces, and not the politicians / assorted dignitaries, at the centre of matters.

And now to have a go at the British Red Cross…

Well, not really. I am a former member of the Red Cross, and I know that the staff who present the society at the Remembrance Sunday event do so with a spirit of solemnity, and in an act of sincere tribute to our armed forces. I know some of these people personally, so please don’t think this is an attack against the people who attend the event to represent the BRCS – it isn’t.

However, there is a problem, and it is actually an extremely serious matter. Any member of the Red Cross will tell you that the organisation holds a number of “fundamental principles” dear, and two of the most important of these are Impartiality and Neutrality. Without these, the work of the Red Cross, and particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, would simply not be possible.

The modern world is a very troubling place, and we now live in times where aid workers, who have worked on foreign shores with nothing but the very best of sincere good intentions, are being attacked and even killed because of a suspicion of complicity with agencies involved in conflict. In my view, it is therefore foolhardy in the extreme for the Red Cross to take part in a parade with the UK military forces. Attending the remembrance event is one thing, but given the power of the image in our times, having Red Cross personnel join the back of a military parade is a VERY questionable decision. In my view, it places the International Committee of the Red Cross’ staff in needless and avoidable danger. It shouldn’t happen.


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