In defence of the realm
During the next week or so you are going to hear an awful lot about World War One due to the fact we are inching towards the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
On Sunday November 11 this year the minute’s silence, which millions of us have impeccably observed since we were old enough to tie a woggle for the annual cub or brownies’ parade, will be that little bit more poignant.Remembrance Sunday has always been special in our house but the centenary of the ending of hostilities in the Great War brings the sacrifice made by many sharply back into focus.My family and I will be in church on the day along with many others who consider it to be one of the most significant dates on the nation’s calendar. Rolling news channels will devote round-the-clock coverage to commemorations and newspapers, including this one, will mark the anniversary with numerous special reports.There will be no escaping the landmark date this year and rightly so as we are a nation which honours its war dead properly.Being Britain, there is bound to be at least one fresh controversy involving a public figure, probably a former boyband member who few of us remember, probably for refusing to wear a poppy while appearing on telly. There will be headlines, an afternoon of frenzied trolling on social media, calls for the person in question to be sacked from a job that nobody previously knew that they had and 24 hours later it will all be forgotten.We have already had two such controversies already in recent weeks, both of which involved student unions and, inevitably, made a lot of already very angry people even angrier.The first remembrance rumpus involved those very clever young things at the Cambridge student union and its started when two undergraduates suggested that the university could do more to promote the commemorations on campus. Their proposal was rejected by the union and replaced with an amendment which encouraged students to engage “productive criticism” of conflict, with one bright spark criticising language which “valorises war”.Obviously it didn’t go down well within certain sections of society. Neither did the second controversy, which this time involved the president of the student union at Southampton University.The official in question landed herself in hot water when she took to Twitter to tell her followers that she would ‘paint over’ a mural within the university which depicted lots of white men in gowns. This, she argued, flew in the face of the university’s inclusivity policy but she clearly hadn’t realised that the artwork in question was a tribute to students from the university who died in World War One and were unable to collect their degrees.Although she did apologise pretty soon afterwards, that didn’t stop the obligatory online petition calling for her to be removed from her paid post.While she was clearly wrong, I don’t regard her outburst as anything more than the folly of youth. Our war heroes took up arms to defend our country’s future, warts and all, including freedom of speech, which is what the students in question were exercising.It is also worth remembering that most young people change their opinions as often as they do their dungarees, another reason not to be at all annoyed with what comes out of their mouths.This Remembrance Sunday will be a very special one - it is right we focus on the fallen and are not distracted by nonsense.