Yesterday, BBC producer Richard Turner posted this picture of two servicemen conducting a Remembrance Sunday service at a remote war memorial, somewhere in Norfolk.
These two men did a Remembrance ceremony yesterday with no witnesses except (by chance) me. Sad and moving. pic.twitter.com/Xbi82tCzoo
— Richard Turner (@TheRichTurner) November 11, 2013
But I find it heartening that people still tend these small war memorials and lay poppies on them in November.
There are believed to be 100,000 war memorials in the UK. Many of them were placed by local groups after the first world war and there is no definitive record of them all. The War Memorials Archive is doing a great job of locating and documenting them and has logged around 65,000 so far. Some of these memorials are not even in villages. Sometimes, scattered hamlets would get together to place a memorial at a crossroads, miles from anywhere.
When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s, Remembrance Sunday was still a big thing. Most of us had grandfathers who had fought and the memories of both wars were still fresh. Looking back to the Second World War was only like looking back to the early Thatcher years now. There were even a few First World War veterans still around. It’s not surprising, therefore, that there was always a big turnout for the parade.
People seemed to lose interest in Remembrance Sunday the 1980s and 1990s. At the end of the 90s, it was revived by the 80th anniversary of the end of the First World War and the publicity given to the surviving veterans. Since then, sadly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan gave the Poppy Appeal a new purpose. Nowadays, Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are big news once more.
In the 1970s, Eric Bogle wrote:
Year after year, their numbers get fewer
Someday, no one will march there at all.
Inevitably, as the survivors of mass slaughter grow old, there will be fewer of them there to remember their fallen comrades. The big parades I remember from my youth are a thing of the past. It would be astonishing, therefore, if there were still large turnouts at all the thousands of war memorials across the country.
But so far, in Britain, at least, Eric Bogle has been proved wrong. People do still march in remembrance of all those who lost their lives in war, even if there are only two of them.
Drive around rural Britain at this time of year and you will find small crosses all over the place, often with only a single poppy wreath. Someone somewhere still remembers.
Every year we pledge:
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
And, even in the remotest comers of the country, we still do.
Photo via Spikeswurda.