Today is the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War. On Sunday I attended a remembrance service at Poynton church. My 7-year-old son, Sam, was there with his beaver scout unit, dressed in his uniform and marching in the parade. Inside the church a young local man who had just returned from Afghanistan spoke about his experiences. As we all stood by the war memorial for the two minute's silence at 11am, I watched the cub scouts shivering in their shorts and wondered what they made of it all. I think perhaps in a world where they are mostly pestered by their parents to wrap up warm, they must at least have understood that this was something important. Important enough that hundreds of people gathered on a sleety November day to shiver together with heads bowed.
I stood in remembrance services as a child myself. I knew what they were about. Well, sort of. They were about The War (we still say "The War", as if there was only one war. As if war is now over. As if). They were about the Men Who Died (and the men who lived, and the women who died and lived). Ah, forget it, I didn't really understand at all. When I stand in remembrance services now I look at my sons shivering in their scout uniforms, standing next to boys who look hardly older in their army uniforms, some with medals already on their chests. And I shiver too.
But I still don't understand. I haven't been to war. Nobody I know personally has been to war whilst I've been alive. I try to imagine what it would be like if my children joined the services and went somewhere like Afghanistan or Iraq. I understand more now than when I was a child, but I still don't really understand.
I hope I never understand. I hope my kids never go to the front. I hope we will soon bring our boys home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope we learn to quit meddling with other parts of the world - we only ever make things worse in the long run. I hope we use our brave servicemen and women to defend our own country if need be and to do peacekeeping services around the world, but not to make war. I hope we equip them properly for that job, and repay them properly for their service, take care of their families properly and take care of them if they are injured. I hope Britain never starts a war again, and I hope we never again join the cause of a nation that starts a war. This I hope, and I pray.