Today amidst solemnity and ceremony I will lay a wreath in Burghfield and a wreath in Wokingham Town Hall. I do so  to remember those who gave their lives in the two world wars of the twentieth century and other more recent conflicts.

This year I do so with more foreboding than usual. There have been many more acts of remembering of the Great War of 1914-18  in recent weeks as we bring to mind events now five score years ago.

The articles, books, tv programmes and pictures of that long and brutal Armageddon have allowed many of us to go over in our minds again just what our grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced as young men in the trenches. The film and diary record reinforces the desperate poetry of Wilfred Owen and others. He asked  whether it was “Dulce et decorum” “pro patria mori”. Could he say that death in those murderous fields was sweet and honourable  if done in the name of our country? He contrasted those feelings with the horrors of a gas attack.

The majority view can now be revised as the soldiers who were left have grown old and died of natural causes. It seems to be settling down to the view that our small professional army, then our mass citizens army, fought bravely and with pride. The political and military leadership was of more doubtful quality, leading to huge slaughter before an eventual victory. Many then doubted the wisdom of command. After it all they asked what had been achieved other than the victory.

Those who fought that war hoped the sacrifice of their comrades would not be in vain. They passionately wanted a permanent peace to follow. Instead, diplomatic and political bungling led to a repeat world war starting in Europe just 21 years later. That war had to confront a worse evil. British military personnel were not just fighting to defeat an aggressive Germany, but were fighting against a bestial ideology that threatened mass extermination of peoples they did not like.

As I reflect again on these heavy matters during the services, I will turn for comfort to the words of Abraham Lincoln. For at the end of the two world wars a new, better, more democratic and peace loving group of nations in Europe did eventually emerge. Lincoln’s speech was wrong about the importance of what those who survive  a war say and think about it. When he spoke of the sacrifice of the Union army at Gettysburg, he found phrases that have echoed across the decades:

“We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, consecrated it. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people  by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth”

There is a vision we can all aspire to.



  1. Lifelogic
    November 9, 2014

    Let us indeed hope we can remember and avoid any more repeats. The recent pointless & counter productive wars, entered into clearly against the will of the British people, does not bode well.

    “This nation under God” – Alas God and organised religion are so very often a main cause & exacerbation of the problem. For good people to do bad things, one usually needs some bogus religion. Alas we still have faith schools (encourage and paid for with taxes) to form new cleavages in the population. We have learned so little from history and even from Northern Ireland.

    1. Cheshire Girl
      November 9, 2014

      I personally don t believe that religion is the cause of most conflicts in the world. People are the cause, and its the way they interpret religion. It makes an easy excuse for them. I don’t know too much about religions other than Christianity, but I do believe that most religions preach peace and harmony towards others. We can all live in peace with our neighbour if we wish to, but many prefer division and conflict. We have a choice as to how to behave. Anyway, on this sad day we should put aside our differences and remember with gratitude and pride all those in the UK and around the world who suffered and died that we may have the freedom we enjoy today.

    2. Joseph
      November 9, 2014


      I think you’ll find that the Christian faith schools have been delivering a slightly different message from some of the Muslim schools. Neither of the World Wars had anything to do with ‘bogus religion’ as you put it and the recent conflicts have been pseudo-religion based on one side.

    3. Hope
      November 9, 2014

      These poor souls fought for king and country. Tomorrow MPs will vote whether to give away more sovereignty of this country to the EU by allowing British citizens to be arrested under the European Arrest Warrant. Mrs May writes a deluded Europhile piece making wild claims this country would be safer, how does it prevent convicted killers and serious offenders entering this country, as we saw with the recent case involving (person left out as was allegations)? How do other countries aroubd the world manage? The ECHR prevents deportation of suspected criminals and creates a further burden to our security services in monitoring them. Sheer nonsense to further the federal dreams of becoming a regional province of the EU to make our criminal justice system come under EU control. The govt dishonours these brave souls who gave their lives for this sovereign nation to even have such a debate.

      1. Lifelogic
        November 9, 2014

        Indeed, You may have noticed that I am no fan of Dave Cameron, but I certainly do not want him to be replaced by favourite(? or anyone remotely like) Theresa May. The EU arrest warrant is an outrage.

      2. Bob
        November 9, 2014

        On the eve of the anniversary of Armistice Day our MPs will be voting to handover powers including the European Arrest Warrant which was used to handcuff and imprison the parents of Ashya King.

        These powers are part of the 135 powers that the UK could opt out of this year under the Lisbon Treaty but may be handed back to the EU voluntarily, without a referendum.

        They will end the tradition of Habeas Corpus which has protected British citizens from arbitrary arrest for 900 years.

        Will our parliamentarians acquit themselves with honour and courage or will they betray us?

        1. Edward2
          November 10, 2014

          Bob, I think your post says what many thousands of Conservative voters are thinking.
          An consise and excellent comment.

  2. zorro
    November 9, 2014

    A respectful and considered message John. When comparing modern day criticism of the authorities today with that from more deferential times one hundred years probably tells us how bad the military leadership was considered in those days. Lincoln’s bellicose nature provoked some of the embers which kindled the ACW…… However, his words do resonate with the wish of people to peacefully coexist with truly representative government……’government of the people, by the people, for the people’…

    Unfortunately, what we seem to have with these threatened endless wars and ongoing conflict is ‘maladministration of the people, by the moneyed, self perpetuating elite political class, for the benefit of global corporate elites’ which, I am sure you would agree, is not quite the same inspiring vision…..


    1. Lifelogic
      November 9, 2014

      Indeed:- maladministration of the people, by the moneyed, self perpetuating elite political class for the benefit of global corporate elites and those in power.

      Often done so incompetently and foolishly that is does not even benefit these elites.

    2. Tad Davison
      November 9, 2014

      I really couldn’t have put that better myself Zorro, and the sooner people wake up to it, the better and the safer the whole world will be. To use a more modern phrase, these people who promote wars, especially the ones in the United States, are a clear and present danger to us all. They regularly trash international law and go against the constitution that laid the groundwork for all that the founding fathers wanted the United States to be.

      I see the former soviet leader, Mikail Gorbachev made an important speech yesterday at the site of the Berlin Wall warning of a new cold war. We need to heed his words and denounce in the most bitter terms the warmongers in the US and the weakling puppets in the UK who hang on to their coat tails. Where Lincoln might have been a force for good, the same cannot be said for any other US leader in the modern era. Too many people have lost their lives because of them. The education of the masses is of paramount importance if we are ever to defeat them, and of course, lest we forget.


      1. Bert Young
        November 9, 2014

        Well said . Gorbachev was ( is ) a sensible and respected individual whose influence brought about a major change in East / West relations .

    3. DaveM
      November 9, 2014

      Indeed Zorro.

      Trust goes both ways in the military. We expect our men to do anything we command, and they expect us to fight, and make the right decisions, for them. The higher level military leadership in the Great War was generally woeful, but still the men did what they were told. It just goes to show that the British forces will fight and prevail the vast majority of the time because we fight for each other and for the nation we love and believe in.

      Recent failures (if you want to cite them as such) have been due to poor political leadership and decisions. I can say from 1st hand experience that our young men and women are painfully professional in their approach to their duties, and they fight like lions when they need to.

      So what I would say to John and his colleagues is this; we will do our very best to impose the political will of our government home and abroad, to the extent where (like many of my friends) we will lay down our lives – I’ve been lucky so far. Can you please ensure that your political will is a conscientious and considered one, formulated in Westminster – not Brussels – and which reflects the wishes of the British people you have sworn to represent and serve, rather than a self-centred one reflecting your corporate and foreign paymasters’ wishes.

    4. forthurst
      November 9, 2014

      Only the heroism and sacrifice is real, nothing else, least of all the marionette mouths of the politicians as they utter the clarion calls to arms and lead the obsequies afterwards.

  3. Alan Wheatley
    November 9, 2014

    As to “government of the people by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth” I shout “here, here!”.

    To which I add that in today’s World there is far, far less certainty as to what is meant by “the people”.

    The migratory nature of the human race, out of Africa, has resulted in a multitude of peoples. Nor do we have a stable definition of who are each of these peoples.

    Physical boundaries are unstable, determined by warfare or a line drawn on a map as a sequel to warfare. Even Island nations can find that those living on the the island are not content for the island’s shoreline, the most obvious line, to define themselves as one “people”, as we are seeing in our own island. Indeed, for me one of the saddest things relating to the Scottish referendum was that after 300 years of trying to live together as one people there should still be such strong forces trying to split us apart: if the Brits can’t make a go of it what hope is there for other peoples.

    It worries me that these issues are World wide and possibly without solution. But at least for our island nation we would be far, far better placed with a leader with a comprehensive knowledge of history, a sound sense of destiny and a practical and imaginative understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, Churchill does seem to have been a one-off.

    1. DaveM
      November 9, 2014

      “Unfortunately, Churchill does seem to have been a one-off.”

      Not so – cometh the hour cometh the man (or woman).

      Wellington. Just one example.

  4. Kenneth R Moore
    November 9, 2014

    Just considering the words of Dr Redwood on the sacrifices of those brave men and women to maintain our freedoms…and the actions of our Europhile politicians in quietly giving them away.

    1. DaveM
      November 9, 2014


      People in the forces aren’t stupid, and they know this. I’ve been in the military for 25 years and I have never met anyone who joined to fight for a EU superstate. History – especially British history – shows that forces fighting for what they believe to be a common and righteous cause tend to win. Pressganged forces, no matter how well trained and big, tend to lose. Think Nazi Germany and Napoleon for starters. Vietnam and Afghanistan (vs Russia).

      We have a proud and generally successful history in conflict. Even when we’ve had commonwealth soldiers fighting for us they have done so because they believed the British cause was right. However, no matter how good we are at war and no matter how professional we are, if the forces don’t believe they’re fighting for a worthwhile cause which is in the interest of our families, friends, and country, and which is directed by our UK government, the success rate won’t be as high – like 19th century Afghanistan and South Africa.

      I hope the Westminster clique can realise this on such a momentous day as today, and particularly at such a pivotal moment in the modern history of our great and powerful nation.

      Thanks for your sensitive and incisive post today John.

  5. Margaret Brandreth-J
    November 9, 2014

    And perhaps we can also remember those who suffered and suffer as victims of wars who are not named , but are dying every day. There are no rituals for those.

    My mother not long before her death told me that she saw British troops as they parachuted down being shot one after the other. She told of her ex fiance who died in battle. My father had a better deal , driving American generals around and spoke of the fun they had.

    We look at life and the gifts it brings and wonder why any one would want to crush these gifts. They are not grateful for life; they seem to be part of the daemonic force of the universe which black holes welcome.

    T.S.Eliot wrote ” And right action is freedom From past and future also For most of us,this is the aim Never here to be realised; Who are only undefeated because we have gone on trying.” May we never stop trying.

  6. Denis Cooper
    November 9, 2014

    In the spring the BBC broadcast a programme written and presented by Max Hastings entitled “The Necessary War”, which has been uploaded by somebody here:

    I’m inclined to agree with him that it was necessary for Britain and its Empire to fight and win the First World War, even though with the benefit of hindsight the massive sacrifices of life and limb were probably not entirely necessary but were partly the price paid for not devoting enough financial resources to preparations for such a war.

    1. Stephen Berry
      November 9, 2014

      Nominally the victor of the two World Wars, Britain was so crippled economically by the sacrifice that she began dismantling the Empire at the beginning of 1947. It’s impossible to believe that the UK’s present subservient position to the US and the EU could have occurred without the massive human and economic bleeding of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

      From the time of the first Elizabeth, British foreign policy was wisely to keep continental Europe at arm’s length. If wars had to be fought on the continent, then the UK preferred to pay other countries to do it. All that changed at the beginning of the 20th century and we are now living with the consequences of that change of direction.

      I saw the Max Hastings programme but did not despair. Staunchly pro-EU for most of his life, he recanted in 2011. When he works out that what happened to Britain in the first 50 years of the 20th century influenced so much of UK policy in the second half of the century, he can revise his views there too.

      1. Denis Cooper
        November 10, 2014

        As I recall he did dismiss the idea that a German victory in WW1 would have just brought forward the establishment of something like the present EU, the consequences would have been very much worse than that.

        1. Stephen Berry
          November 10, 2014

          Denis, Hastings does try to portray Germany as an autocracy and pulls the usual trick of saying the Kaiser was slightly mad and bad. But this won’t wash. In 1914 the franchise in Germany was wider than that in the UK. As for the Kaiser wanting his ‘place in the sun’, why not? Can he be accused of villainy for wanting to emulate Britain?

          Much of the programme is about establishing Germany’s war guilt and I don’t want to go down that tangled path. Suffice to say that we could accept Prussia’s war guilt for the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, but maintain that Prussia’s victory was not a disaster for Europe. More importantly, in no way did this necessitate Britain spilling blood and treasure – and the British government of the time wisely didn’t.

          The Hastings programme is full of unintended ironies. Austria has to deal with the Serbs in 1914 before they threaten the Austro-Hungarian empire. But the war results in the collapse of that very empire five years later. Britain has to deal with Germany before it threatens the British Empire. But the war puts in progress a sequence of events which bankrupts Britain and brings down that very empire.

  7. Tad Davison
    November 9, 2014

    I always watch the Remembrance Day service, not simply out of a sense of duty, but because it is important to me personally. I have no wish to forget the sacrifices of others and the enormity and the tragedy of war. People, we are constantly reminded, laid down their lives for a better future.

    As the television cameras panned around the dignitaries, we saw the Royal family, the remaining veterans of the second world war and of the conflicts that followed, the military bands playing solemn music, then we saw the political leaders all gathered together. At that point, I felt my attitude change from one of genuine respect, to one of disgust.

    In deference to the fallen, I will leave it there.

    Tad Davison


    1. Lifelogic
      November 10, 2014

      I agree fully.

  8. fkc
    November 9, 2014

    Please on this day of Remembrance can we make stronger efforts to regain those freedoms our heroes died for and strengthen our democracy that our ELECTED MPS are responsible for.

  9. Bert Young
    November 9, 2014

    The Nation respects the fallen today . Every single life lost is regretful and a forceful reminder of the past torn apart by wars . I’m glad we are out of Afghanistan – a place we could have avoided were it not for our support to the USA . Today we must also reflect on when, where and whether we should become involved in the future – the Ukraine and the Middle East are bubbles about to burst . We must also reflect on the strength and effectiveness of our Armed Forces ; they have suffered many cut-backs and are not what they used to be . Our leaders carry a weight on their shoulders that must take history into account ; they must not commit us to conflicts in the future that will only leave us worse off .

  10. Mondeo Man
    November 9, 2014

    Both World Wars were a total and utter waste of our best young men.

    Think of the resources that went into just one battleship. Its construction – the effort of the families that went into bringing up each crew member to be decent human beings, their education, their training.

    All could be lost in one fleeting military contact – gone forever. It is hard to comprehend. Post war Britain was not a country victorious but a country heartbroken.

    Subsequent generations have let these people down badly. I feel very ashamed.

  11. ian wragg
    November 9, 2014

    The biggest threat to world peace is the empire building EU. I have visions of more English blood shed due to the stupidity of our rulers and the relentless encroachment of Brussels.
    The people will eventually retaliate and it wont be pretty.

  12. ian wragg
    November 9, 2014

    Please explain to us John about the EAW as the ECHR has decreed that it is not safe to deport asylum seekers or illegals to France, Greece and Italy but your home secretary thinks its ok to deport UK nationals.
    Answers on a postcard please.

  13. Gary
    November 9, 2014

    This is how we should remember war

    War Is a Racket is the title of
    two works, a speech and a
    booklet, by retired United States
    Marine Corps Major General and
    two time Medal of Honor
    recipient Smedley D. Butler

    The work is divided into five
    1. War is a racket
    2. Who makes the profits?
    3. Who pays the bills?
    4. How to smash this racket!
    5. To hell with war!

    1. zorro
      November 9, 2014

      Smedley Butler is an interesting case. He was the most decorated Marine at the time and had spent 30 years of his life fighting in Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. He was also well known for being a vociferous critic of U.S. wars and their consequences. Interestingly, he also exposed the infamous ‘Business Plot’, a purported plan to overthrow the U.S. government…..


  14. Denis Cooper
    November 9, 2014

    Interestingly, while Lincoln may have said:

    “government of the people, by the people, for the people”

    in his Gettysburg Address, he had given a shorter and significantly different version in his message to Congress of July 4th 1861, a document which has sometimes been given the title “A War to Preserve the Union”.

    Image 8 here:

    “And this issue embraces more than the fate of the United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy – a government of the people by the same people – can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes.”

    (The words “constitutional republic, or a” being in Lincoln’s own hand as a late insertion into the final printed draft, itself an interesting side point.)

    So then it was “a government of the people by the same people”; a criterion which of course is not satisfied in the EU, where different peoples are presuming to govern each other through transnational majority voting, and which I would say has been at the root of innumerable conflicts around the world from time immemorial, and not just where and when the form of government has been or is supposedly democratic.

  15. Sandra Cox
    November 9, 2014

    On this Remembrance Day, thinking this morning about what my Family and all our people and others have gone through in various wars, I know my dear Dad would be saying: Just what the *!$$ did I give up several years of my youth, and the loss of so many of my comrades and friends for?

    John, we have to admit that we have had a “fifth column” in our midst for years, and we are still importing or harbouring a raft of people who have no love for, or allegiance to our country. Bad enough in peace time, but by taking us once again into Iraq, surely our parliament has put us on a war footing!! What is parliament doing to counter these threats?

  16. Stephen Berry
    November 9, 2014

    The trick will be to ensure that we are not doing all this again in 100 years time. To be precise, that we are not remembering 100 years from now a major war that was waged by Britain at the beginning of the previous century. We kicked off the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in this fashion. Time for a change!

    At the commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev warned quite rightly about the danger of a new Cold War. The collapse of communism should have been the opportunity for an era of cooperation with the likes of Russia, especially after their troops withdrew from Eastern Europe. Instead, the US and the EU seems to want to take NATO to Russia’s very doorstep and paint Putin in the blackest colours.

    Two weeks ago on holiday in Tuscany, I drove past military cemeteries to American and British troops, all in immaculate condition. Very moving, but for some reason, Louis XIV final words “I have loved war too much” came to mind. Perhaps we British have also loved war too much.

  17. Terry
    November 9, 2014

    Alas, the lives that were sacrificed in these dreadful Wars did not save us from the domination of a Foreign State that now lays down our laws. Even more sickening when not one of the ruling Commissars has been elected by the British citizens.
    So Britain has finally been defeated and controlled by stealth and all of the dead have been shamelessly debased and insulted in their mass graves.

    They died protecting our country from an invasion by a terrible tyranny. Sadly, their ultimate sacrifice merely delayed the invasion. The dead of two world wars have been totally ignored by a succession of new political leaders who gave away our country, the one they died for, on the pretense of ‘forever peace’ in Europe. Now, we are controlled by Europe who conveniently forget the sacrifices made by OUR people who died to save their own countries from Nazis brutality.

    If we really honour those brave lads and lasses we MUST rid ourselves of the new tyranny as a matter of extreme urgency. To do otherwise, is to insult our dead. And ALL true Brits still have a sense of honour, don’t we?

  18. DaveM
    November 9, 2014

    So Britain has finally been defeated and controlled by stealth and all of the dead have been shamelessly debased and insulted in their mass graves.

    It’s the stealth bit that really sticks in the craw.

    This is just a blip though – our country will never be controlled by foreigners despite how depressed we may feel in the current unsatisfactory climate. It’s not in our nature to be controlled by outsiders; we have 2000 years of history as testimony to that.

    Nil desperandum Terry.

  19. ChrisS
    November 10, 2014

    My wife and I spent a very pleasant day in London on Remembrance Day. We drove up from Dorset and parked in a side street on the South side of Tower Bridge for free, just a short walk from the Tower and the extraordinary Poppy Art Installation.

    The atmosphere was sober but at the same time exciting. Even at 10am, there were many thousands of people in the area around the tower. In fact, I’ve never seen so many people walking around London on a winter’s Sunday before.

    We went to the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet memorial nearby for 11am, a very moving ceremony, and walked to Covent Garden then on to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. It was good to see that Whitehall and Parliament Square were stil closed to vehicles so, along with many others, we were able to walk down the centre of the road and admire the wreaths at the Cenotaph.

    What was most pleasing was that so many thousands of English people of all ages had taken the trouble to come to London for the express purpose of seeing the Poppies and at the same time reflect on Rememberance Day.

    We will make every effort to go again in 2018.

  20. Eddie Hill
    November 10, 2014

    Your post made me think, especially in the context of this series of articles in the Sunday Telegraph:

    1. Reports of a direct threat to the Queen on Remembrance Day, with intelligence services claiming to have foiled an Islamist plot to mount a terrorist attack;

    2. A report warning that Islamic extremists are infiltrating schools, university campuses and scout groups across the UK on an ‘unprecedented scale;’

    3. Fears growing among both security services and community leaders over radicalisation of youngsters in High Wycombe;”

    4. Eric Pickles describing Tower Hamlets as a “rotten borough” infected by a “culture of cronyism” and run by a “medieval monarch” who had “misused” his “unchecked” personal power to favour ethnic and political allies;”

    5. A British suicide bomber (Kabir Ahmed, 32, of Derby,) killing eight people in the northern Iraqi town of Beiji;

    6. “Britain is safer because of troops’ sacrifice in Afghanistan,” says David Cameron.
    Does anyone believe him?

    No, nor do I.

    I have never understood how we could possibly be combating Islamic extremism by wasting £ billions sending troops to Afghanistan to patrol a wilderness until they step on an IED or get shot civilians, whilst all the while allowing hundreds of thousands of Muslims to come and live in this country. I hope it made semse to someone, because it makes no sense to me. I doubt it made much sense to our troops either, in much the same way that trench warfare didn’t make sense in 1914-18.

    Then I read your post.

    You say: “The political and military leadership was of more doubtful quality, leading to huge slaughter before an eventual victory. Many then doubted the wisdom of command.”

    We are in the same position today; the people of this country no longer trust or believe their leaders and we are all overwhelmed by a sense of futility, because we can see what our leaders apparently can’t.

    You go on to say: “Those who fought that war hoped the sacrifice of their comrades would not be in vain.”

    Well, it was in vain, because our pusillanimous and incompetent leaders are giving way everything our forefathers fought and died for.

    You end with Lincoln’s “…. vision we can all aspire to.”

    Well, despite the consecration of the ground by the dead, “government of the people by the people, for the people” remains a vain hope.

    We are now ruled by a largely unaccountable, liberal clique based in Brussels, which can apparently demand from us whatever it wants, disregarding its own rules when convenient to do so, all without any checks or balances on its power or its accounting.

    With remote and detached leaders I don’t trust or believe (who are demonstrating Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same thing repeatedly whilst always expecting different results), overwhelmed by a sense of futility and with deadly danger on every side, this year more than most, I find myself empathising very strongly with our soldiers in the trenches in 1914-18.

  21. Robert Taggart
    November 12, 2014

    Alas, it be too late now to ask those who served in the First War whether or not they regretted their efforts – to ‘fight for Belgium’ – in view of what that country’s capital has come to mean !

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