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Friday 11 November 2011

In Remembrance

Today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And it is because the Armistice that ended the Great War came into effect at the eleventh hour of that day, and on that month, in 1918, that this is Remembrance Day. Who do we remember on this day?

From that Great War, the last war when the ruling class instructed the rest of the population to go and fight on their behalf, we remember more than nine million dead from the military of the two sides. It is as if most of the population of Greater London had been systematically wiped off the face of the earth over a four and a half year period.

From the Second World War, we remember well over twenty million dead, military and civilian, as the Third Reich and Japan waged aggressive campaigns around the globe. The numbers may not have included as many dead from the UK, but in campaigns such as that in Russia, many millions died in the most bloody, intimate and unyielding of conflicts.

From campaigns since 1945, we remember those who died in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Middle East, Central America, Afghanistan, the South Atlantic, and those lost to acts of terrorism.

But above all, this is not a celebration of war, nor an approval of it. It is when we remember those who went to fight for their country, and never came home.

And perhaps our leaders will remember the haunting conclusion of Harry Patch, who survived the Great War that consumed so many of his contemporaries: “It wasn’t worth it”.

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