We Should Never Forget
By the end of World War I, nine million soldiers had died and twenty one million were wounded. And the losses were compounded by the deaths of civilians. Over six million died from starvation and disease.
This small act of remembrance, marking the official day when the war ended, is a powerful gesture to show that those lives that were lost in our quest for freedom was not in vain. It also serves as an act of defiance – a powerful message that we reject the ways of oppression.
And it is not just the war of past that we honour today. We are recognising all who have given so much in the name of our freedoms. This morning, the QE2, just hours before she makes her final journey, after six million miles of circumnavigating the world, will be showered with a million poppies. During the Falklands war the QE2 was conscripted into service. Over a thousand crew members volunteered to remain with her as she sailed into war. And there are countless soldiers - men and women who have given their lives in the Middle East in the name of freedom for others.
Even ninety years later, we are still haunted by the mass futile deaths of World War 1. The war poet Wilfred Owen wrote a poem entitled Futility. He writes of his desire to move a dead body into the sun, reflecting how that very same sun woke the soldier when at home and how it still brings seeds to life, but cannot make the corpse live. His moving poem ends on a note of anger and protest.
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
The carnage of World War I and the heroic struggle to defeat Nazism in World War II stunned Europe into a realisation that we must find a way forward together. I don’t believe that God contrives terrible things in order to teach us a lesson. That is not the kind of God in whom I believe. Rather, when terrible things happen, which they seem to do as part of the price of having a world at all, it is our responsibility to recognise what went wrong and what steps we should now take to stop such tragedies ever happening again.
Today, as the last remaining survivors of the Great War lay wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph in remembrance of their fallen brothers, let us not forget what others have given that we may call ourselves free.