IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Rupert Brooke, The Soldier
For many years it was fashionable to disparage Brooke’s view of England and revere the poets who exposed the horrors of the First World War. But I sense there is today a renewed respect for the sentiments in a poem which, remember, was written when the country was still optimistic about the war.
Patriotism manifests itself in many motley Englishman – from the pride we show in the pub when debating with a ‘Jonny Foreigner’ to the numerous battlefields of the history.
Mind you, we are always debating what England stands for. Is it as the Kinks proposed twee “We are the Village Green Preservation Society…God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties”. Is it a murkier drug addled, benefit riddled, violent inner-city. Or is it bland old suburban Roy Hodgson?
From the start of November I, and hopefully all of England, will proudly wear a red poppy for 11 days which culminate with two minutes of silence on Armistice Day. Patriotism is shown in unity, pride, and reflection.
Armistice Day is awash with personal grief, twinned with a national poignancy. I think of those of my family who fought for this country and I bristle with pride that our country refused to be bullied by utter evil. We stood up to Germany and helped defend the good people of Europe.
I am a very proud Englishman, genuinely believing this to be the greatest country of them all. We may have gone a little off the rails during the empire – if one spreads the jam too thin, ruling by fear is the only option. We learnt as a nation and now have become open and multicultural.
Remembrance Day and its build up is still totally relevant; one just needs to see the swathes of people paying respect to the awesome sea of poppies surrounding the Tower of London. Poppies do not solely represent the end of the First World War anymore – World War Two and the many other conflicts since then are also prevalent in our thoughts.
That said there are some are not so keen. The ever reprehensible Guardian labeled the Tower of London as a UKIP style memorial, trite, inward looking, and toothless. The author, a strange character called Jonathon Jones, argued that a more accurate tribute would be to fill the moat with barbed wire and bones!?
Thank you Mr.Jones for reminding me why I take The Times.
Mad and disrespectful left wing journalists aside, I think we all take pride in wearing a poppy. It is a talking point – an icon that young children can ask about and we can answer with the correct awe. A lesson in what man should never want to be.
The first eleven days of November should be a time of loud valiant pride. They are a reminder that we won the war. England as we now know was saved.
However, at 11 o’clock on the 11th of the 11th we drop the pomp and bow our heads in respect. Silence engulfs the nation. My mind fills with memories of my four serving Grandparents in WWII and most stirringly my great-Grandfather – he, at 15, lied about his age so he could conscript. Thankfully he survived, when so many didn’t.
Those brave men sacrificed their lives so their country could survive. They forwent their future in the belief that their families would have a secure future. Becoming a nameless soldier of the past, they became the foundation to what we take as the present.
At two minutes past eleven the silence is caressed away by a lone trumpeter playing a dulcet Last post. My arched head hanging above a sober tie will always rise to observe the crowd. The silent chorus of patriotism that hangs in the air is almost louder than a group of tub-thumping, three lions tattooed, chanting football fans.