Remember the fallen: poppies and students

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11th November, Remembrance Day is fast approaching and the poppies of the British Legion are beginning to become more and more visible on people’s lapels as they scurry backwards and forwards across campus. With the anniversary of the armistice of World War One comes a spectrum of emotions from across society. For the older generation, memories of loved ones killed in action, and experiences of war, pushed to the forefront of the brain. For the rest of us; respect, awe and gratitude feature most heavily in our minds, at least certainly for me. But as this poignant day draws nearer, the question of the validity in observing a two-minute silence for something that happened over half a century ago is sometimes raised.

For the majority of society, war is something that very few of us haveexperienced and therefore has very little to do with our generation. Even our parents cannot really claim to have experienced the true effects of war, despite living in the imminent years afterwards. If it had finished maybe only a couple of decades ago, then most would understand the need for a few minutes of silence. This is not the case, and the time for forgive and forget has come to the forefront, especially as we are now over a decade into the millennia. Despite this, the silence not only commemorates the past, but also the present, for fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whilst the day is mostly in thought of soldiers falling in both world wars, it is also for present-day troops. Surely this day should still be preserved for our soldiers of today?

Remembrance Day is not just to commemorate those that fell during battle, but also to pay respect to the millions of citizens that also died, and to the victims of the war, such as victims of the Holocaust. It would be an insult to not pay respect for all of two minutes to the soldiers that ensured our future, and saved millions of people from death. Paying for a poppy is a very small contribution we can give back to the soldiers that fight, and have fought, for our liberties, freedoms and security, and for those in need of foreign aid. We owe a lot to our troops and it a complete disrespect to their memory if we do not acknowledge this.

Nevertheless, the number of people who wear poppies is considerably smaller, I find, at university than it ever was at school or sixth form. Perhaps it is just because of the size of university in comparison to that of my school or sixth form that makes it seem like less university students wear them in comparison to the younger students. Or is it simply people cannot be bothered, now that there is no longer the presence of a parent or school teacher to encourage or enforce the buying of a poppy? Perhaps people cannot find anywhere to buy poppies from; I have certainly noticed there is not anyone walking around the campus selling them, rather the porters or the LUSU shop have trays of poppies. It is slightly more understandable that people do not wear a poppy simply because they do not know where they were being sold.

In spite of this, whilst it is hard to find the poppies, it is not impossible, and there is really no excuse to not wear one. The question should never really be raised over whether Remembrance Day is relevant for today’s society because we owe too much to not acknowledge what was done for us. Remembrance Day should always have a place in our schedules; after all, would you readily put your life on the line for others? Most likely not, so the least you can do is acknowledge what others did for you.

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6 Comments

  1. ” Remembrance Day should always have a place in our schedules; after all, would you readily put your life on the line for others? Most likely not, so the least you can do is acknowledge what others did for you.”

    Apart from in the 1940s, what have the armed forces done for me? What are the armed forces currently doing for anyone?

  2. “there is really no excuse to not wear one” – is quietly donating a small amount and not feeling the need to grandstand your undying love for the armed forces (the majority of whom, today, are in because they want to ‘kill some ragheads’) not a valid excuse?

  3. i agree, but surely the point you raise is also the reason a lot of people don’t wear poppies? You’re right in that we don’t feel affected by war, but the same logic can be applied to the Remembrance Day tradition. If more of a point was made from it- as in, if there were tributes to fallen soldiers from our current wars as well as WWI/II, then I’m sure people would feel that they actually have something to remember and pay homage to. As it is, the events usually take place around memorials, which many of us have no real connection to. In my school, for example, the way we were educated about the trenches was to watch Blackadder.

    All this is no excuse, of course. We still owe a massive debt to the people who gave their lives during the great wars, and the people who are still giving their lives today. But ‘there’s no excuse not to wear a poppy’ is a pathetic statement to make. I don’t wear poppies, because there’s more about respect (IMHO) than changing an accessory for a few days and feeling proud that I’ve spent a quid on proving I care. I’ve marched in bands, held flags for parades, stood alongside the grieving in remembrance services, and played the last post at memorials. I pray for those caught in the horrors of war. And this does absolutely nothing. War is an ongoing horrific reality, and not a day when we can prove to strangers passing by that we care more, just because we’re wearing a poppy.

  4. This article is so badly informed that I can’t even be bothered to criticise it properly.

  5. Also, you show not even an attempt at understanding why people wear red poppies, in particular. The history of the poppy itself, the symbolism of the poppy – from that, try and draw a clue about why people may not actually like the armistice poppy.

  6. “war is something that very few of us haveexperienced and therefore has very little to do with our generation” – Hasn’t there been a war on since 2003?

    “the time for forgive and forget has come to the forefront,” – Forgive who? Armistice Day isn’t about expressing hatred for the Germans.

    “Perhaps people cannot find anywhere to buy poppies from… the porters or the LUSU shop have trays of poppies” – Does no-one visit the LUSU shop or their porters lodges?

    Also, the whole article seems to suggest that the very existence of Armistice day is under threat. It really isn’t…

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