NINETY-NINE YEARS and a day since the end of the Great War. For a short moment the UK pauses to remember its fallen in that conflict and the others since. It’s a permanent fixture in the life of our country, and I believe we are all the better for remembering.
The most visible outward sign of our national respect for the dead is the wearing of the poppy. Even this simple, non-offensive public gesture is not without controversy. I don’t normally bang out “disgusted of Haddington” letters to editors, because such missives are on the whole, like revenge and Tweets, best served cold.
But a correspondent in Glasgow’s Herald newspaper had written to the editor with the ludicrous and preposterous claim that wearing a poppy was, and I quote verbatim, “implicitly legitimis[ing] the continuing use of armed force”. Here’s the link if you don’t believe me.
And so I found myself battering out an immediate response on my laptop at some unearthly hour in the morning and despatching it off to the paper toute de suite. Interestingly, a Tweet posted publicising my letter has got far more views than any other I have posted recently, and more positive responses via comments and emails than I have ever had before.
No need to rehearse the points made any further here, except to emphasise what should be an obvious point to everybody of sound mind: wearing a poppy does not signify your support for war. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Then there’s the wearing of the white poppy. What’s that all about? Well, it appears that originally it was used a symbol of pacifism, starting way back in the 1930s, worn as an alternative to, or as a complement to, the red one. More recently it may have become associated with a leftist and therefore anti-war political posture.
All fine and well, I hear you say, but as the Royal British Legion points out, those sentiments are already encompassed in the wearing of the red poppy. Most ex-service men and women who have been in conflict are pacifists, because they have seen and done things which they would not wish anyone to have to repeat.
And, paradoxically of course, the very freedoms which white poppy wearers seek to espouse can be exercised in a large part due to the sacrifices of those we commemorate with the red one.
Saddest news of all is the UK Border Force has just intercepted and seized about £150,000 worth of fake poppy-branded products at a port in Essex ahead of Remembrance Sunday. Criminals seeking to exploit our day of national mourning for monetary gain is despicable and beyond the pale. Clearly they have no shame.
Be that as it may, I’ll be wearing my poppy this weekend, and I hope you will do, whether it be red or white. And if you choose not to wear one at all, that’s fine too.
Just remember that such freedom of choice has been dearly won by those who fell in service of their fellow citizens. If you do that’s good enough for me. Just never forget.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford served with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment (Scotland’s Own)