This year will be the 25th year I have stood on the Hoe to commemorate the sacrifice of our armed forces from the two world wars of the last century. Does it become routine, after all of those years, just another duty? Not at all, if anything more poignant the older I get.
We live in an age of incredibly realistic video games that most of our young people seem to play. Many of them are war games and are massively entertaining, with astonishing graphics. There is however a risk that the computer-generated violence can sanitise the player to the true consequences of war. You press a button and your opponent is splattered all over the screen. You move on to destroy the next one. You lose your life and you simply press reset and start again.
Real war is not like that. Just talk to people who have experienced it. I attended a very poignant play at the Waterfront in Ivybridge recently which examined powerfullythe human consequences of loved ones being lost in the Great War. The cost is terrible. The impact on those involved long term and damaging.
How important then, to impress on the coming generation that real war has real and lasting consequences and should always be the absolute last resort.
The second lesson from our remembrance reflections is how tragically young most of the men were who served on the front line and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They had barely begun their adult lives and their futures were snatched away. This resonates deeply with today’s teenagers, I know, in a very real way.
Thirdly, if we don’t learn from the mistakes of history we will be destined to repeat them. After the First World War several mistakes were made. The reparations on Germany were too tough and caused an economic and political vacuum into which Hitler strode. The League of Nations was powerless in the face of rising Fascism. Because of war fatigue and our understandable repugnance at the losses in the Great War, we were slow to arm ourselves in the face of obvious military re-armament and threat from continental Europe.
So this weekend, as I stand in silence at Burrow Hill Plymstock, the Pavilions Service of Remembrance on Friday night and then ultimately the Hoe on Sunday morning, I shall be reflecting on these issues, giving thanks and resolving once more to work for peace in a troubled world.