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  • Writer's pictureRobey

We Will Remember Them

Updated: Apr 4


Wargame hobbyists have a somewhat complicated relationship with Remembrance. We are almost universally respectful, in my experience, of the lives given up in pursuit of the defence of the home and of allies in war and armed conflict. But, at the same time, we like to spend our evenings and weekends engaged in turning some of those same wars into experiences of fun. I would be far from the first and will surely not be the last to mull over what the dochotomy - it is not going too far to call it cognitive dissonance - means to us. But I am in a minority of that population who has, himself, served his country in uniform.


I don't pretend to any great moral authority in that respect. I had, by most measures, a very easy period of service. I was never so much as within earshot of an active conflict space. But many of my friends were. And not all of those escaped unscathed and a tragic handful - in every case, among the very best of us - did not return.


I don't mind admitting that I feel a little awkward attending the Act of Remembrance at my local war memorial. At the urging of fellow veterans, I dust off my old beret and solitary medal and put them on. I join the ranks of old men whose ages I find myself approaching with alarming speed. Together, we amble - it cannot be called marching - towards the centre of the large village we all call home. Accompanied, usually, by a recording of a brass band (or, occasionally, by the more moving, if less expert, tones of a local band of the Sea Scouts or some similar institution) we drone out old hymns at a pace almost funereal (I confess that I am also in a minority of men who both possess a good singing voice and is prepared to show it off in public so I invariably find myself leading in that respect).


It is all more than a little odd. The camaraderie feels simulated. The melancholy, accidental.


Until silence falls.


And, in that moment, I hear the almost-forgotten voices of friends who left their blood and their lives on foreign fields. I sense their fear and pain - long ended, but still close at hand - because I know it could have been mine in a different twist of fate. And through that fear and pain I have, in the silence, a moment's connection with the brass-etched names on the old stone cross at which I stare: the names of men and, in too many cases, boys whose feet walked the same streets I walk today.


I don't forget the ordinary citizens - men, women and children - whose lives and livelihoods were ruined and sometimes snuffed out by the same conflicts. I'm not ignorant of the cruelties - large and small - committed by armed forces today and always through history. We remember it all and we urge ourselves to do better.


But in that silence is when I remember that, however long it is since I last wore a uniform, I am still a soldier in a long line of soldiers.


And then, with reveille, I am again just a middle-aged man in a too-tight beret. I awake as a civilian and return to life no different to how I was before.


But still...


At the going down of the sun,

And in the morning,

We will remember them.

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