The Importance of Remembrance.
Dr Martin Watts. School of Humanities and Educational Studies.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month in 1918, the guns fell silent as an Armistice was declared that ended the immediate sacrifice and slaughter of the First World War. This was also known as the Great War, up to then the most calamitous and widespread conflict in human history; a tragedy that brought death, destruction and misery. This anniversary of peace is the occasion on which we remember those who gave their lives for their comrades, families and freedom, in this war and in the conflicts that followed. Field Marshal Haig established the British Legion in May 1921 to support veterans, widows and families, at a time when Britain was experiencing a post war depression with 2 million unemployed, and the Legion has thereafter been central to remembrance in the United Kingdom. Haig, who had commanded the British and Imperial Armies on the Western Front, devoted his retirement to the welfare of veterans.
The Royal British Legion has a strong affiliation to Kent, with the manufacture of poppies, the symbol of remembrance from the fields of Flanders, being headquartered in Aylesford. This is also the location of Preston Hall, a sanitorium that was taken over by the Legion in 1925, having been established as a colony and village for wounded ex -servicemen, specialising in the treatment of Tuberculosis. Today, the village contains assisted living areas and provides nursing care for over 100 veterans and their families, a reminder of the continuing need for the support of those that served.
In this Centenary year, the Royal British Legion is focussing on the Royal Navy and we are reminded that servicemen and women have continued to experience death, disablement and the long lasting effects of mental trauma. Service in the Armed Forces deals with risk every day, and we are reminded of this through the loss of life in peacetime, through accident and misfortune. As an example, we remember the centenary of the loss of a submarine, HMS K5, with all 57 hands, off the Scilly Isles whilst on passage to a peacetime exercise in the Bay of Biscay.
In the 20th century there was only one year, 1968, when no member of the armed services was lost on active service. Now, following the wars of the early 21st century, the demands upon the Legion and other ex-service charities remain as a constant reminder of the sacrifices and suffering of many veterans.
It is what makes this single day – the day we honour them – so special in our national calendar.