Armistice and remembrance

I’m a huge advocate of recalling the lessons of the past, learning the stories, and putting faces to the names.

Over 30 years ago I was one of the few students who went to the war memorial in Nottingham – and as student President I was one of the first in recent times to lay a formal wreath at the Cenotaph there.

Come forwards and I lay a wreath as Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Derbyshire County Council.

In addition, I am the Lay Worship Leader for Great Hucklow Unitarian Chapel in Derbyshire Dales.

My view of armistice and remembrance has become more rounded and more informed and I now understand the role of all nations, the global effect of conflict and the consequences – in matters of hate, few are left out.

Accordingly when I lay a wreath at Matlock as Group Leader, I lay a wreath of red poppies but also a hand made wreath of purple poppies to represent the animals who served and died. Further this year, I tied a yellow and blue ribbon around my red wreath to reflect the Ukrainian conflict.

At my Chapel we have made remembrance a key cornerstone of our year and have adults and indeed the local school in attendance. As a Unitarian Chapel we are very inclusive and with our unique status as a national spiritual home for Unitarians we are able to call on a wider base of support. We have a poppy fall, we have a poppy heart, we do a service inside and outside the Chapel and it is – as is the Unitarian tradition – the most inclusive poppy fall in Derbyshire. Red poppies for uniformed service, purple for animals, black for all nations and races, pink for those arrested for their sexuality and white for peace.

This morning, Sparky and I popped down to the Town Hall in Chesterfield and placed the finishing touches to a small display of purple poppies. We adorned it with the ribbons of the Dickin Medal for animal bravery and we paused to recall the full horror and to do our bit to remember and to learn.

Here in Derbyshire I’m keen that we honour all those who died in service and due to conflict.

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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  • Thanks Ed. In my role as Methodist Local Preacher I always wear both a red poppy and a white poppy; I even do that when I have led the public remembrance service at a village cenotaph and no one has objected to that. In services I emphasise respect for soldiers and pacifists who have risked their lives in non-violent opposition to evil rulers and say something about the causes of war and what we need to do to prevent war.
    On the latter, as in both my church and political roles, we have to speak against narrowminded selfish nationalism that has been on the rise recently.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful post, Ed. I had no idea there were so many poppy colours!
    When I was young I used to hate Remembrance Sunday as, in my naive mind, it seemed to glorify war. Years later I realised that my parents’ generation were recalling hugely traumatic events that they had experienced both in the military and during raids at home. They tried to shield us baby-boomers from all that but the scars ran deep.
    Over time the Acts of Remembrance have mellowed and widened. I thought last night’s Festival of Remembrance from the Albert Hall captured many nuances, and included references to the Falklands War (40 years ago) and Ukraine.

  • Ronald M Murray 13th Nov '22 - 4:13pm

    A most interesting item I am pleased to learn about the black poppy. I had my wife make me a purple poppy. Having been brought up a quaker I always respected both the Red and White poppies. My father served in the cavalry at the end of WW, the only thing he ever talked about was horses being shot at the end of the war. To save bringing them back to the UK. I strayed for about 7 years being an army reservist enjoyed it as I felt we in the Intelligence Corps helped maintain peace. I know decorated veterans who wear both Red and White.

  • Paul Holmes 13th Nov '22 - 8:43pm

    As Leader of 17 LD Borough Cllrs in Chesterfield I took my usual part in the large scale Civic event this afternoon. The Lib Dem Mayor (Tony Rogers whom some older LD Voice readers will know), laid a wreath of red poppies on behalf of the Council and a colleague, Katherine Hollingworth, laid one on behalf of our Council Group.

    I have attended many of these remembrance ceremonies over 25 years of elected office as a Cllr and as an MP and thought that this years event had one of the biggest public turnouts that I can recall. A post Covid boom in attendance? Or due to the Ukraine War reminding people that sometimes the only way to defeat military dictators, be it Hitler or Putin, is to fight with all the awful consequences that entails?

    A personal note for me came from the Royal Marine who laid a wreath. My father was in the Royal Marines in WW2. I also had an Uncle who served in Burma, one in the Middle East and another in the Royal Navy. An Aunty served in a Searchlight Unit including during the Sheffield Blitz, memories of which used to be told by my mother who was a teenage girl at that time.

    In the past I have also helped lay wreaths at the UK and Argentinian memorials in the Falklands. These are always poignant events but to me seemed even more so in a year where we are daily witnessing the largest scale death and destruction being inflicted on a European neighbour since 1945.

  • Richard Church 14th Nov '22 - 9:21am

    I wear a white poppy to remember my great uncle. He refused to fight in the first world war, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement, then sent to work in a Scottish granite quarry and finished the war in Dartmoor prison, which has been turned into a work camp for conscientious objectors. After the war he was shunned, he had lost his job and his health deteriorated, he died far too young in the 1930’s. He was a victim of war, just like the millions of soldiers and civilians whose lives were ruined and destroyed.

  • You great uncle was a victim of war just as much as soldiers and civilians who lost their lives and the traumatised soldiers that were executed for desertion.
    That is the case today for the men and women fleeing Russia and Ukraine to avoid conscription or death in the war.
    The Great war was a global conflict between imperial empires, the British empire not excepted. Military conscription is the antithesis of Liberalism and yet Ukraine finds itself in a position where it is forced to resort to such illiberal measures in an effort to preserve its existence. A quandary for Liberals everywhere.

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