War: What is it good for?

Stupid people always have the most to say, and often the loudest. So I’m not going to resist the temptation to say much about this country’s impending foray into war. After all, it’s a more complex topic than Alan, 55, bus driver from Luton on Twitter might have us believe; and I’m not an expert.

But I will say this: in 2015 I visited the National Memorial Arboretum with my Dad (you know we love history and our family history includes a LOT of maritime and military history). While I was there I took this pic on my iPhone of the Armed Forces, towards the end of a summer day and not long before closing time. It’s a huge, beautiful memorial to those who have died in conflicts over the years since World War II. It sits high up; proud, beautiful, solemn. The simplicity of its walls as haunting as any film footage or photograph.

It’s made out of Portland stone, over which the names of sixteen thousand men and women of the armed forces are engraved, neat and orderly. It is, essentially, a giant list.

The day we visited was National Armed Forces Day 2015, by which time the British Armed Forces had suffered 454 casualties during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan alone. Families and friends brought flowers and the familiar remembrance poppy wreaths to position at the foot of the memorial. 

If you look at this photograph, just a snap on my iphone, you’ll see the long early evening shadows of the visitors standing before the latest names on the memorial. Some of those visitors have just laid flowers, and taken a step back to stand in thought as they gaze on the name of someone they once knew or loved. Some flowers were already there from previous visitors earlier in the day. Up close you can see messages written on cards in biro; to sons, daughters, daddies, and brothers. But from back here you can also see something just as sad as the names already on there: you can see the expanse of Portland stone left blank for the dead yet to come.

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