Saturday, 13 November 2021
Lest We Remember?
25 or 30 years ago, it was universally assumed that only the Armed Forces themselves would still be keeping Remembrance Sunday by now. It was about the two World Wars, and the veterans of those were starting to die off in some numbers by then. No one expected that it would still be a grand national event when someone born on the last day of the Second World War was 76, and when every veteran of the First World War was dead.
But in the meantime, it has transformed into the exact opposite of its original intention. It has become a recruitment opportunity for the Forces, a celebration of recent and ongoing wars, a rally in support of future ones, and a way of cementing the idea that some kind of debt from the War was owed in perpetuity to the old or the ageing, even though most of those aged over 65 today had not been born in 1945.
Meanwhile, what has always been this country's shameful treatment of veterans continues as ever. I am wearing a poppy as I type this. But I have never sent anyone to war and then expected private charity to look after them once they had come back. The Royal British Legion ought to be a purely social organisation. It did not send people to war, and neither it nor the astounding array of other military charities ought to be responsible for the care of veterans. Morally, that responsibility lies with the State.