Charity No: 1075109


11th November 2023

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British Forces Foundation CEO Mark Cann has written a Remembrance piece in the Express this weekend.

He writes: "The time for Remembrance comes round again: shoes are shined, suits sent to the dry cleaners, banners dusted off, bands play, ancestry websites crash and poppies flogged on every street corner. 

In most circles, not wearing a poppy in public is seen as a grand faux pas at best and insult to the fallen at worst.  It’s a good week doing the right thing and it feels right. But what’s behind it and in this year of all years who and what are we remembering and why?

In my office I see the Burma Kohima epitaph “when you go home, tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today”. 

But this message is under threat.

Go to Imperial War Museum where they seem embarrassed to have the word ‘War’, in their title (not to mention Imperial) and most displays are about innocent victims, collateral casualties and an apology for having taken part. There is barely a mention of the horrors of campaigns like Burma as history is re-choreographed to fit the modern mood. I don’t mind but the full factual story needs to be told.

That war is ineffective and horrid we know. It occurs when society has broken down, where law and order fails to exist and hatred is roused. What do we fight for? As our understanding of Nation gets more confused so does our understanding of what our Forces fought for. I am no expert, but my experience and that of my forebears would define ‘for’ as country, democracy, society - which is basically family, friends and peaceful, fair community.  

War is overly romanticised by film and the service experience of intense comradeship, shared purpose, humour in the most bizarre and extreme circumstances doesn’t really help inform what we are remembering, which is the sacrifice to protect us because society between nations failed. 

Predictably there will be protests this weekend, the usual publicity hijacking but with no relevance, showing stupidity defacing statues of the very people who fought for the right to protest!

I do believe our Armed forces serve us well and, more importantly, are prepared to. I am not so sure they are well supported by the vast apparatchik of government and contractors. 

For the record, in case you might think differently, and charities let you believe otherwise as they ambulance chase the soft causes, but not everyone who ‘served’ is screwed up including those who have been to war. In the main they are tough physically and mentally and make excellent employees and citizens.  

I don’t wish to decry those who have been terribly affected and wounded – who need all the respect and help available - but don’t let us do a disservice to the many highly capable and competent people who make diligent and loyal workers who have been able to effectively process their trauma and experience yet are now distrusted for their service.  

The military is perhaps the biggest culprit for exacerbating this. I heard the other day of a highly capable young man being turned down at the medical stage for being in a car accident and therefore has the ‘potential’ for PTSD!!

I enjoy talking to the Veterans of the Burma Star Memorial Fund and the young on the frontline with the British Forces Foundation. The characteristics, language, humour are the same. You often hear that Veterans ‘don’t want to talk about it’. This is simply because ‘war’ is not easily relatable to those who have not experienced it.  

I have this mantra that I use often: None but those there will fully understand the extraordinary human, mental, physical, environmental, logistical, cultural and military challenges our Veterans faced. However, we do know this: the life we enjoy now has always, and will always, be preserved by young people marching towards danger to stand in harm’s way for us and the values we hold dear as a nation. The debt we owe them all is to ensure we do everything possible to ensure it is never forgotten.

Few want to fight none want to die.


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