Saturday, 10 November 2018

How and why we remember

In Dorothy L. Sayers' 1928 novel 'The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club', the two minutes silence on November 11th is not only a plot point, but also gives the author, through the hero (of the book and holder of the DSO) Lord Peter Wimsey, the chance to offer a contrarian view as to how the anniversary of the Armistice should be marked. His Lordship observes: "All this remembrance-day business gets on your nerves, don't it? It's my belief that most of us would be only too pleased to chuck these community hysterics if the beastly newspapers didn't run it for all it's worth. But it don't do to say so.".

So, ninety years on and the situation, in the UK at least, is if anything worse, with the poppy police constantly on the look out for deviations from regulated observance. Back in 2013 MPs complained that Google displaying a single poppy on their home page was 'demeaning'; there should apparently have been far more. I cannot be the only one to have been disturbed by the increasing replacement of simple paper poppies by ever larger and more elaborate designs which can serve no other purpose than to signal that the wearer is more virtuous than everyone else. Far better writers than me have been wrestling with all this, so I thought that I would share a few links to their articles; I hope that you find them thought-provoking.

The Conversation on why wearing a poppy is political

Stumbling and Mumbling on not wearing a poppy

Slugger O'Toole asks 'A Great and Just War?'

Ian Jack argues that conceptual art can never convey the tragedy of the Great War

For the record I have not worn a poppy for some years, but I do donate to the Royal British Legion and I shall be observing the silence tomorrow.


  1. My father fought and was wounded in the last war and had no time for Armistice day . I've noticed our PM has been in Flanders honouring the dead , pity she and this government wouldn't do more our present generation of ex servicemen - perhaps it's cheaper to praise the long dead ?

  2. Ditto. And I will cry during the Festival of Rememberence as my mum always did remembering her brother (an uncle I never knew) who died after Dunkirk in the British abandonment of the 51st Highland Division. She always said one 9fnthe poppy’s from 5he roof was for him. RIP Private Allan - an uncle I never knew, have never seen a picture of, but will always remember.