We will remember them

Three years ago, 888,246 ceramic poppies were placed around the Tower of London. You can read my account of my visit to see them here. 

I found the whole thing incredibly moving and actually distressing in places. I think seeing each individual poppy and realising it meant a life, like my son’s, really hit home.

I can only imagine what it must have been like as the family back home, waiting to hear news of your loved one and hoping that the next knock at the door brought a handwritten letter from them and not a telegram.

On a day like today, you also think of those children growing up today without a parent who has been killed somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan.

On a day like today, we should be thinking of the common humanity that binds us together, not artificial divisions from our neighbours.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Nov '17 - 4:03pm

    Very good to see from Caron, and David, thoughts with all those who serve and those who miss them.

  • I can only imagine what it must have been like as the family back home, waiting to hear news of your loved one and hoping that the next knock at the door brought a handwritten letter from them and not a telegram.

    I’m told that when Rudyard Kiplings’ son departed for the war, Rudyards’ wife, Carrie Kipling, wrote in her diary: “There is nothing else to do. The world must be saved from the German … One can’t let one’s friends and neighbours’ sons be killed in order to save us and our son.”

    It was not a good time.

  • nvelope2003 12th Nov '17 - 8:34pm

    It was the last Liberal Government under HH Asquith who took Britain into this ghastly war. Maybe that explains a great deal.

  • Christopher Haigh 12th Nov '17 - 9:13pm

    @nvelope2003, Britain under Asquith and Sir Edward Grey, his foreign secretary, proposed a peace conference involving countries not directly related to the Balkan conflict, namely France, Germany, Italy and Britain. Unfortunately this sensible liberal initiative was rejected by the autocratic Kaiser.

  • Christopher Haigh: Kaiser Wilhelm II’s rejection of a peace conference did not mean we had to join the war. We did not join the Franco Prussian War of 1870 or the Prussian Austrian War of 1866. The British Establishment feared that a strong and efficient Germany would overtake Britain and wanted a war to stop this and protect the British Empire. The invasion of Belgium gave them an excuse and allied with Russia, the most reactionary state in Europe whose support had long been sought by the supposedly democratic French Republic for years with visits to the Tsar by their President, war began. All these states were motivated by both fear of German expansion and a desire to expand their own empires. Talk of democracy etc was just propaganda to mislead the ordinary people who had to fight the war.

    I do not think Asquith wanted a war but I am not so sure about Sir Edward Grey. Certainly the City of London did not want one and a delegation went to Asquith to beg him not to get involved.
    Sometimes nations are affected by collective madness. How else could any rational people carry on such an orgy of killing and destruction for over 4 years ? The results were a catastrophe, the collapse of Germany, the Bolshevik Revolution and general loss of confidence in democratic institutions resulting in the rise of Fascism. And after two attempts to stop the advance of Germany, despite two colossal defeats that nation is now the leading power in Europe because what must be will be. They are what stands between us and domination by Russia, a state that has never pretended to have any interest in democracy but for centuries has striven to undermine Western Civilization and its institutions.

  • Yeovil Yokel 16th Nov '17 - 2:01pm

    nvelope2003 – “The invasion of Belgium gave them an excuse……” So if you had been Prime Minister in 1913-14 what would you have done, leave the Belgians and French (our allies) to halt the German invasion on their own?

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '17 - 2:26pm

    I always thought I’d have been conscientiously opposed to Britain’s involvement in WW1, until I actually did some research on what happened in Belgium. The atrocities weren’t just made up by the Allies as wartime propaganda.

    Violating Belgian neutrality in contravention of the Treaty of London was bad enough in itself. But the treatment of Belgian civilians was inexcusable. This is just a taste of it:

    “On August 25, 1914, the German army ravaged the city of Leuven, deliberately burning the university’s library of 300,000 medieval books and manuscripts with gasoline, killing 248 residents, and expelling the entire population of 10,000 ”

    All part of the Clausewitz military handbook, apparently. Just treat enemy civilians as if they were combatants.


  • @ Bill Ellson Thank you for clarifying some issues on dates, Mr Ellson. I should have broken into paragraphs to make it clearer. I agree Grey didn’t necessarily specify a Cabinet post for Beveridge, but I think it safe to suggest that implicitly and by necessity that’s what it would have been. To quote :

    “We can only convince our people of our determination by fulfilling, matters such as family allowances, which are possible now, by appointing a Ministry of Social Security and a Minister responsible to this House. It may be argued that no such man exists, but I differ from that opinion. I feel that the man who originated this Report ought to be appointed to the position of Minister. I can see no reason why Sir William Beveridge, a proved administrator who has spent many months working on this Report, should not be given the responsible task of implementing it”. Hansard. Grey. 18 February, 1943

    If that had happened Beveridge would probably have been in the Lords – and someone else may have represented Berwick after Grey was killed.

    The Churchill War Cabinet was far from orthodox. Woolton, in Cabinet as Minister for Reconstruction, was not fitted to introduce such a massive piece of legislation. A former director of Lewis’s, he was better at food and clothing.

    The thrust of my post was to pay tribute to Grey on Remembrance Sunday, but thank you for your comments. Interesting to consider he was six years younger than Jo Grinond – and who knows what might have been ?

  • nvelope2003 17th Nov '17 - 9:32am

    Yes the behaviour of Germany towards the Belgian people was disgusting and appalling but nothing compared to the casualties of 4 years of warfare

  • Yeovil Yokel 17th Nov '17 - 11:11am

    nvelope2003 – you still haven’t answered my question. It’s easy to fulminate against the horrors of WWI and the idiocies of political and military leaders from the safety of your keyboard a century later – but, if you had been the PM or C-in-C of the armed forces, what would you have done differently to stem the German advance on Paris and then defeat its army in the static attritional campaign on the Western Front?

  • nvelope2003 19th Nov '17 - 3:41pm

    I would have done what Gladstone did when the Prussians attacked the French in1870 and there would have been a swift end to the war and the sufferings of the Belgians. The French were competing with the Germans and us to acquire large chunks and Africa and were only marginally less barbarous in the way they treated the people they conquered. King George V of Hanover thought it was his Christian duty to support Austria in 1866 and as a result he lost his throne and his people their independence and became unhappy subjects of Prussia. Fortunately we did not intervene and the war soon ended.
    I do not recall any politicians intervening to save the poor people of Matebeleland from the tender mercies of Robert Mugabe who had about 25,000 of them killed and will no doubt never be held to account for it. We went to war for Poland in 1939 and handed them over to Joseph Stalin in 1945 after 6 years of merciless war.

    It is very easy for politicians to promise to defend or support other nations but they do not have to fight the wars and endure the hardships imposed on their people. Did any of them forego a single glass of champagne ? They just bathed in the popular acclaim when the whole ghastly business was over and the people expressed their relief but they did have their revenge. In 1918 the Liberals were reduced to 165 seats and the Conservatives won a landslide. In 1945 it was the Labour Party who won the landslide.

  • nvelope2003 19th Nov '17 - 3:50pm

    I did not fulminate against the idiocies of military leaders in WWI – they were just doing what the politicians told them to do but I do think, without fulminating, that the politicians were misguided. We and the Arabs are still suffering from similar misguided interventions in Iraq, Libya etc. At least our politicians were so ignorant of history that they might be forgiven. What do they teach people at school ?

  • nvelope2003 21st Nov '17 - 2:58pm

    If the French had not been so obsessed with regaining the German speaking parts of Alsace and Lorraine which they had lost due to their own arrogance and incompetence in going to war in 1870 – provinces they had stole from the Germans in the past – the war would not have spread to Western Europe. Germany asked for French and British neutrality in the war with Serbia and this was refused. They asked the Belgians for neutrality but this was refused. While this does not make any of it right it does somewhat detract from the holier than thou attitudes of the British and particularly the French who were conniving with the Russian Tsar and determined to steal those territories back. Needless to say German was banned there after they regained them.

  • nvelope, how did France steal provinces from Germany before Germany existed?

    He said, ‘stole from the Germans’, not ‘stole from Germany’.

    There were Germans for a long time before Germany existed.

  • (Just like there were Italians for many centuries during which there was no coherent political entity that could be called ‘Italy’).

  • nvelope2003 19th Nov ’17 – 3:41pm… We went to war for Poland in 1939 and handed them over to Joseph Stalin in 1945 after 6 years of merciless war.

    We didn’t go to war ‘FOR’ Poland; we went to war to stop further German aggressive expansion…German expansion had begun in 1938 with the annexation of Austria and then continued with the occupation of the Sudetenland and then all of Czechoslovakia in 1939….

    Most of your post is about NOT going to war, Russian Troops had already advanced through Poland in 1945; are you suggesting that we should have fought the Russians?

  • nvelop2003 The First World War was an absolute tragedy – but I’m afraid it was more complicated than you seem to suggest.

    As to responsibility for the war, I’m happy to go along with Professor Gary Sheffield, who wrote :

    “The first world war began for two fundamental reasons. First, decision-makers in Berlin and Vienna chose to pursue a course that they hoped would bring about significant political advantages even if it brought about general war. Second, the governments in the entente states rose to the challenge. At best, Germany and Austria-Hungary launched a reckless gamble that went badly wrong. At worst, 1914 saw a premeditated war of aggression and conquest, a conflict that proved to be far removed from the swift and decisive venture that some had envisaged.”

    Full article here :
    First world war: Historian Gary Sheffield on a deliberate war | World …
    https://www.theguardian.com › World › First world war. 2008.

  • nvelope2003 21st Nov '17 - 9:32pm

    David: I suspect that the actions of Germany and Austria Hungary are more likely to have been a reckless gamble based on what happened in 1866 and 1870/71. The French could not forgive Germany for the loss of German speaking Alsace and German Lorraine and thought this would be a good chance to get them back. The British were driven by fear of the prospect of Germany taking their place as the leading European power which is what has happened. What a pity they did not try to emulate German educational and industrial policies instead but of course that is far too boring, too hard work and time consuming.

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