Letter: We must remember and learn from the agonies of war

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The Independent Online
Sir: Frank Barrett (3 October) misses the point. The purpose of Remembrance Day is not to glorify war, but to remember those who died in the two world wars and in subsequent wars - Korea, the Falklands, the Gulf, Northern Ireland, Bosnia. And it is nonsense to suggest that the agonies and grief of war are 'conveniently forgotten': the point is to remember them.

At our peril do we forget, and it is easy to forget in the heedless and selfish preoccupations of the present. We must learn from our past, for we could blunder into a third world war as before almost by mistake and, no doubt, as usual, hideously unprepared.

As for the 'elaborate pageantry' that Mr Barrett complains about, on Remembrance Day we are a nation grieving for thousands of young men killed in hideous wars - not the losing of a football match. His grandfather wouldn't have wanted to go to the Cenotaph on that day and nor, I think, would my father, who also fought and was wounded in the First World War. But thousands of old soldiers do take part in the parade, and why shouldn't they? It's a way for them to remember the battles they fought together and to grieve collectively for those of their comrades who died. And to receive our respect for their achievements and thanks for what they may have sacrificed in lost health on our behalf.

I do agree with Frank Barrett that it is admirable for schoolchildren to go to Belgium and northern France to see the cemeteries and the memorials to the missing, and to attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. I think they should all go. They could pay their respects to the German dead, too. They could also learn that France lost more soldiers in the two world wars than we did; and that those wars were fought on French and Belgian soil while parts of those countries were occupied by enemy forces - something the British have not suffered since 1066.

Finally, Frank Barrett fails to mention what the Poppy Appeal is for: all the money collected goes to help wounded veterans of the two world and subsequent wars, and to help provide for the widows and children of those who were killed.

Yours faithfully,

MERYL MOORE

Cambridge

(Photograph omitted)

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