i Editor's Letter: "Poppy fascism"



I write this with a heavy heart and not just because it is about Remembrance Day, poppies and freedom of expression. But more of that at the end.

We received an impassioned response to Archie Bland's column on "poppy fascism". Many praised him for having the temerity to write it, others were outraged by what he said. Contrary to a few views, neither Archie nor we need apologise. Surely one reason people fight is for freedom of expression; the right to question the consensus?

I've been wearing my poppy with a little more pride, because this year I belatedly found out what my father did during the war. I never knew him. He died when I was a baby. My ma said, like so many, he never talked about it. But recently my aunt died, and some of her (previously unseen) photos told a story.

Edwin didn't always drive a van for an Italian ice-cream firm. During the war, he was a paratrooper. In September 1944, aged 19, he parachuted out of the sky over Belgium during the Battle of Arnhem. He was shot in the leg, mid-air. I know very little else, not even how he got home. But he looked fine in that uniform with wings on his arm and Brylcreem in his hair. What agony. Such terror. How brave. They all were.

I was going to write this for tomorrow, but I am ceding this space to Victoria so she can say goodbye. Bizarrely, she is giving up deputising for me here for the bucolic pleasures of her new Cotswolds home. We will all miss her innumerable skills, wisdom, steely integrity, humour and big, kind heart... plus the gardening tips. With love and gratitude...