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Remembrance: Who exactly are we remembering?

Questioning the almost uniquely British Remembrance Sunday is tantamount to breaking a religious taboo in this country. But inspired by Jeremy Paxman’s critique of David Cameron’s plans for the centenary Remembrance Day, here is something that I find genuinely puzzling about the whole thing.

Who should we remember? For those, like me, that are confused about who we are remembering every November 11th (ie who constitutes ‘The Fallen’ as they are increasingly referred to nowadays), here is a DIY guide. You have to draw the line somewhere and decide who to include or exclude, but where on the list below would you draw it?

Lord Kitchener

British officers killed in action by the enemy since 1914

British troops killed in action by the enemy since 1914

British troops killed in action by friendly fire since 1914

British troops who died accidentally while at war since 1914

British troops who died accidentally at home since 1914

British troops who committed suicide during or after a war since 1914

British troops who were executed for desertion or ‘cowardice’ since 1914

All the above but including those who died in wars before:

1914

1814

1714

(……….insert your own date here)

All the above but also including foreign troops who are our allies

All the above but also including foreign troops who were our allies at the time

All the above but also including British civilians who helped during wartime

All the above but also including any British civilians who died during wartime

All the above but also including any British civilians who die helping society in some way

All the above but also including foreign civilians who actively helped the British during wartime

All the above but also including any foreign civilians in allied countries who died during wartime

All the above but also including any foreign civilians in neutral countries who died during wartime

All the above but also including any foreign civilians in enemy countries who died during wartime

All the above but also including foreign troops who were our enemies at the time

All the above but also including foreign troops who are our enemies now

All the above but also including foreign civilians who help terrorists

All the above but also including foreign civilians who are part of terrorist organisations

Suicide bombers

Terrorist leaders

Osama bin Laden

Well, who did you decide to include? Just the military? Just British? How about resistance fighters (one of my parents would qualify here)? Prison camp victims? Prison camp survivors who died shortly after the war from stress (my grandparents would qualify here)? And are not enemy servicemen just as much victims of war as those fighting on our side?

I am also confused why the UK, almost alone amongst nation-states that fought in WW1, is still commemorating it – but that is another argument for another day.

Jamie McMillan

Briantspuddle

8 October 2013

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2 thoughts on “Remembrance: Who are we remembering?

  1. bobtheburder

    We remember everyone who has had the misfortune to be caught up in a war; friend or foe, leader or soldier, innocent or guilty.

    Reply
    1. furtlefinch Post author

      Thanks Bob. Yes, it used to be that – probably short of suicide bombers and probably not the Napoleonic War – but nowadays there is a lot of talk of ‘sacrifice’. Usually coupled with ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, which would rule out most of my list including 1914-18.

      Reply

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