We will remember them

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, Dave Woodhall argues that one day of paying tribute is enough.

There was a minute’s silence at most football matches last weekend. There will be another one this weekend. The reason, of course, is that these dates were the last times the clubs holding them will be at home before Remembrance Sunday. So if you go to two matches you’ll have two silences then, another one on Remembrance Sunday and a fourth on 11th November. At the risk of sounding disrespectful, how many times do you need to pay your respects?

In the aftermath of the First World War, the idea arose of a two minute silence on the anniversary of the armistice. It was a solemn period of mourning and reflection during which the nation came to a standstill. After the Second World War this changed to Remembrance Sunday, when the dead of all wars were remembered. Now it seems that silences can take place at any time in the early part of November.

Coming from a family with a military background, with grandparents who were involved in the First World War plus others who served in later conflicts, one of whom was killed fighting in Burma, I was brought up to regard Armistice Sunday as a special day. Respects were paid and the dead mourned. For those who had first-hand knowledge of war, who lost family and saw friends killed, that one day in the year was sufficient. Now, for some reason, it’s no longer enough.

I’ve always believed that one two minute period of quiet reflection is worth a dozen periods of forced silence. It’s a spin-off from the poppy fascism debate of recent years.

Every year there will be a story about a TV presenter not wearing poppy and businesses not showing sufficient support the poppy appeal. Jamelia is currently being accused of a lack of respect for not wearing a poppy on Loose Women. Two weeks ago Morrison’s was criticised for making an 89 year old poppy seller stand outside one of their branches while this week Asda got similar abuse because they allegedly sent another seller home. Never mind that the 89 year old chose to stand outside because he would collect more money there while the Asda seller had got the date wrong.

I have tremendous respect for the Royal British Legion, not least because they continue to rise above such disputes, to regard any support for the appeal as voluntary and to show gratitude for any help they get. They also remain steadfastly apolitical, which must be difficult at a time when many groups have attempted to hi-jack the appeal and its associated act of remembrance, turning it into some form of demonstration of Britishness. I’m not particularly fond of the gaudy poppy jewellery the Legion now sell, but if it raises money for their cause then who am I to complain?

But, and this goes for poppies, silences and other forms of remembrance, anyone contributing or taking part should do so because they want to, not because they feel obliged. I think that mourning the war dead should take place once a year, in a heartfelt and simple way, not become a season on the calendar, fitting in between Bonfire Night and Christmas. I believe that in this instance, less is definitely more.