Poppy day pride and prejudice

Brothers in arms: My Great War grandfather and great uncle

I wear my poppy with pride. It’s my way of honouring the millions of men and women who lost their lives for freedom.

Yet I share the concern of some that the annual poppy appeal has become a badge not of honour but intolerance. (I should add that the Royal British Legion could never be accused of intolerance.) As I blogged a year ago:

“The poppy appeal is a simple call to commemorate the dead of the great and small wars alike, while helping today’s veterans. Yet my father, Bob Skinner, who served in the army during the second world war, is uneasy at the way this quiet tradition is becoming a compulsory exercise in sentimentality. He asks whether BBC newsreaders would be allowed to go on screen without a poppy. Political correctness has taken over. Bob hasn’t worn a poppy for several years.

“I’m also uneasy. I was appalled by the undignified argument between England’s Football Association and FIFA over whether players could wear a poppy on their shirts during a game. FIFA’s view that it was a political symbol was as crass as the FA’s totally inappropriate aggressive stance. It’s significant that these arguments are raging now, over 70 years after the end of the second world war, and not in the immediate aftermath of those great wars. This is the era of Daily Mail intolerance of alternative opinions – especially ones that are critical of the military. Back in 1921, when the first poppy appeal took place, no one would think to glorify war. The object was to mourn, to commemorate and to help survivors. Almost a century later, Britain is much less likely to criticise its warriors, their leaders or the decision to send them to war. As a result, we’ve been involved in wars that have nothing to do with us for well over a decade.”

Brothers in arms, Second World War: Dad and Uncle Bert

One thought on “Poppy day pride and prejudice

  1. I, too, wear my poppy with pride (even the rather large one I knitted from a Royal British Legion pattern which went a bit wrong).

    We no longer have the Repatriations coming through Wootton Bassett which has been renamed Royal Wootton Bassett in response to the part the town played in receiving home those killed in Afghanistan. this sad ceremony has now moved to Brize Norton. Each Repatriation – whether in rain, sun or snow – saw hundreds if not thousands of people from all over and all walks of life standing in silence, many quietly weeping, and all supporting those families devastated by their loss. It made it real – as does seeing the war cemeteries and memorials of the Somme. Many of those lost were the same age, or even younger than my son, your nephew. Local war memorials bear testament to the fact that all communities lost young men – and some show that several families lost more than one member.

    The rights and wrongs of war – or of particular conflicts – have nothing to do with the Repatriations or Remembrance Day. What matters is that they gave their lives. Their families bore (and many still bear) the their loss.

    Julio and I have just come back from visiting the Remembrance Garden at Lydiard House, just outside Royal Wootton Bassett, where preparations for the opening ceremony tomorrow are well under way. Thousands of crosses and poppies bear witness to the losses.

    We will remember them

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