Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance - the moment it's real

We're lined up. The great and good of Bradford that is. We've paraded to the Cenotaph, listened to the Bishop's prayer, heard the last post and stood in silence. Each of us has stepped forward to lay a wreath - most emblazoned by the badges of those we represent - the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor, political and religious leaders, police, fire, ambulance and the elderly men thinking of their fallen colleagues.

And then a woman steps forward - shuffles nervously towards the war memorial - clutching something to her breast. She's wearing a jacket with badges patched on its sleeves and the image of a young soldier on its back. The woman - perhaps fifty years old, certainly younger than me - leans down and places that thing she'd clutched so tightly. It's a photograph of a young soldier, the same soldier as the one on the back of the woman's jacket.

It stands, that photograph, there amidst the wreaths, proud and tearfully poignant. The woman walks back into the crowds, you can see she's holding back the tears. She'd remembered her son. And we'd remembered her son. More wreaths were laid, the Royal British Legion's hymn and the National Anthem were sung and the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Mayor took the salute of the soldiers, cadets and marines who marched past.

I couldn't get that photograph and that mum out of my mind. It's for her we remember - not because we like war but because that young man in the picture and so many like him did their duty. And in doing that duty, lost their lives. Not for the government. For us. For us to think every day about how we get a world where there aren't mum's placing photographs of sons on cenotaphs. And for us to remember that, until that day comes, we need those young men who sign up to lay their lives on the line protecting us.


1 comment:

asquith said...

I was at Stoke Minster, a very moving service, if a bit too low-church Protestant for my tastes. Guests included the one and only Tristram Hunt certainly had our fair share of tears shed for men killed then and now. I was glad my friend who was in the navy managed to survive his time and is out now, but as you can say thousands are still there and we have no idea where they'll be deployed.

I have found the best chroniclers to be AE Housman ("Farewell to a name and number" is, imho, far more evocative than any of the well-known war poems) and of course this: