Enough is enough. Isn't it time that the Royal Festival of Remembrance became just that - a festival of *remembrance*? Last year, I spoke of how haunted I was by cataloguing books from 1910-1920, and how lads entering university in 1912 or 1913 rightly looking forward to golden years studying and punting found themselves on the muddy fields of Ypres.
In this year's Royal Festival of Remembrance, John Simms read us a letter from Passchendaele written by Jack Mudd to his wife Lizzy and their two little ones, taking us back across the years, reminding us of the true cost of war:
Dear Lizzie, it's nearly six months since I saw you, how I long for you and the children. God bless you all. I love you more than ever. I want nothing more to take you in my arms, what a lot of love we have missed, but please God it will make it all the sweeter when I see you.
Please God it won't be long before this war is over, we are pushing old Fritz back, I don't think he will stand the British boys much longer, and then we will try and keep a nice home. I will know the value of that now.
Why can we not know it always? Four days later, Jack was not present at roll call, and his body was never recovered from the knee deep mud and slime at Ypres. Lizzie remarried a friend of his from the same battalion who was badly wounded, but she kept his last letter in remembrance of their happiness. Her daughter donated it to the Imperial War Museum, granting us the privilege of a window onto their love.
No more. No more stories of young men dying on their 24th birthday in Basra's field hospital whilst his twin holds his hand. No more men and women coming home irreparably wounded - physically, spiritually and emotionally. No more young widows and widowers. No more orphans.
No more young men dying for old men's wars.
From Laurence Binyon:
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
And finally, please...
God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there.
He is young,
He's afraid -
Let him rest,
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
Just bring them home. For always.