n.b. The author is not Trixy
Armistice Day is one of those increasingly few occasions when the British public rises above Daily Mail-led fits of self-righteousness, and bottom-feeding obsession with reality TV. Failure to respect the two minutes’ silence is most unusual, and the sobriety and emotion of the event transcend superficial post- Diana public outpourings of grief to represent genuine loss and respect for those who have died in the service of their country. The British have been ever supportive of the Armed Forces and November 11 stands as a splendid monument to the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of British servicemen, with the well-documented horrors of the trenches of Flanders serving as a universal symbol for the unpleasantness of war.
For a soldier, Armistice Day is a nexus of the year as we remember our fallen. As a Royal Welch Fusilier, my regiment is the most documented infantry battalion of the First World War after the tomes of Robert Graves and Seigfried Sassoon amongst many others, and the sufferings and magnificent achievements of the 23rd Foot in that war are recorded in unprecedented depth. 9,972 Royal Welchmen gave their lives between 1914-18, with tens of thousands injured. Our knowledge of the achievements of our forebears and the annual reminder of their ultimate sacrifice ensures that the weight of history hangs heavy on our shoulders on Armistice Day. In last year’s parade, the privilege of carrying the colours, those flags on which are borne our myriad battle honours, which symbolise the history and spirit of the regiment, under and for which so many have given their lives, stands as a high point in my Army career. My fellow ensign and I made a pact beforehand to release the colours and let them fly as we marched off the parade square, and it made for a glorious sight in the Cyprus wind.
As a serving soldier, however, those losses closest to me were foremost in my mind during the two minute silence yesterday: the five members of 2 Mercian Battlegroup who died whilst I was with them on Op Herrick 6; and most significantly Second Lieutenant Jon Bracho-Cooke, who died in Iraq in 2006, and Major Lex Roberts, who died in Afghanistan in 2007, both from my company at Sandhurst. I am not ashamed to have shed a small tear in their memory. Although given in unpopular wars in which the scale of British casualties does not begin to approach those of some previous conflicts, their deaths assume a particular significance in that they were not given for the immediate benefit of our own country (although in our country’s service); instead, these soldiers gave their lives that others in distant lands might have a better tomorrow. Although the death of a colleague gives true cause for lamentation, in our grief we should not forget to be heartbreakingly proud of their sacrifice. For that reason, with the Armed Forces still embroiled in two wars abroad, the bittersweet remembrance of Armistice Day remains more important and relevant than ever.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
n.b. The author is not Trixy