The sound of silence

Posted by Ian
8.00pm update
A selection of your comments on Remembrance Day:
God forbid we should ever forget. I have been to France and seen the thousands upon thousands of war graves; those men fought for us to live a free and independent life. We MUST NEVER forget and our boys and girls are still over in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for that right so we MUST always remember. My 11-year-old son asked the referee this morning at his football match if they could have a minute’s silence, which was fantastic to see. NEVER EVER FORGET!
– Nicholas
As I have every year for the last ten, I attended the city of Manchester’s Remembrance Day Parade today. This initially started as I was a Sea Cadet Civilian Instructor and somebody had to attend with all the "spares"!
Although I’m no longer with SCC I still like to attend and give my support to the Cadets, even though most of them don’t know me now. We meet in McDonalds on the corner of Portland St. and Oxford St. It’s great to see old comrades meeting up – from their conversation, you know that it’s been 12 months since the last time they saw each other.
I think the most poignant feature of the two-minute silence is that although time seems to stand still, the traffic lights continue to change – signifying (to me) that things are moving on all the time, and we have to keep moving forward. One feature of the ceremony I liked this year was that there was a prayer reading from most of the religions practised in the area, all praying for the resolution of conflict throughout the world.
I hope the tradition of this day and the two-minute silence endures for a long time yet.
Although survivors of the two World Wars may be decreasing, we still need to remember and support the forces involved in recent and present conflicts; at least three of my former cadets are serving overseas today.
– Angie
I think it is really important to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by others for us and our country. I mark the occasion every year and wear a poppy for the week running up to Remembrance Sunday. I also take part in the local parade and services. I am 15 and will always do this until the day I die (even if I have to be carried). I will always remember. I will never forget.
– Anon
I live just over the water from your old home city of Liverpool, and find that Rememberance Day is something most people embrace wholeheartedly. During a trip to a local supermarket, poppies were everywhere, and people wearing them were almost as common as those who didn’t. However I find that fewer and fewer shops are selling them, giving people less chance to buy them. This year was the second year running I didn’t buy one, because I never got the chance to. My father served in the Army and my step-father in the Navy during the war and during a visit to my mother, we both observed the two-minute silence. We should also remember that Armistice Day isn’t just to remember those who died in the first war, but all wars Britain ever fought in, including the current ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only by learning the lessons of the past can we hope to avoid such terrible mistakes in the future.
– Robert
I personally believe that the younger generations and anyone taking up residence in the UK should be educated and made aware what Remembrance Day is all about. Parents should get their children involved in going to Remembrance Day services, wherever it may be. People in their teens and twenties should be made to think how it would be like re-living the horrors of the two world wars today.
– Anon
The comments in you blog have missed some of the points and significance of the Rememberance Day Service and silence at cenetaphs all over the country, to salute and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It did start after the first World War to celebrate the end of that horrendous slaughter but it is also to remember those who have fallen in wars in service of their country and freedom, and that is still happening, so it remains relevant.
Also one of the reasons behind the cenotaphs and services is because in war some deaths are not recorded and the victims are not buried in a recognised grave, if the body is ever found. Families of these heroes have no date and no where to go and place flowers to remember and grieve. In modern wars there are better records and smaller numbers so it has been easier to keep track of who and when people died. But remember it is still war, not a film; when a bomb or artillery shell goes off there is not much left of a human body if anything at all, so some still have no grave. So on the 11th of the 11th at 11am loved ones have somewhere to go and grieve and remember Granny, Granddad, Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter.
In the modern conflicts they bring a lot of the dead home but there are still a number with no grave, even in places that the conflict is considered over.
As for the poppy it was chosen as the sign of rebirth after the devastation of the First World War and should be worn with pride. If, as you said, you "noticed people regarding my own poppy with looks of suspicion and bemusement" then push your chest out and display you pride to remember. Just think the other person you see wearing a poppy could have proudly pinned that on to their winter lapel thinking of their loved one and it makes their heart glad when they see all the other people with them on.
The poppies are made by disabled veterans so they not only provide money but give a job to someone who might not be able to do anything else. If it costs money to clear them up because of thoughtless people discarding them, it might be an idea that special containers are put at some main points so that they could be collected for recycling, giving more work for veterans.
– Richard
Although some may say I have a biased point of view being an ex-serviceman (I served in the ‘Cold War’ period), I never experienced what must surely have been the most horrific conditions of warfare. The gargantuan human sacrifice in both World Wars gave us the freedom of speech and expression that we enjoy (and that many take for granted) today. I am proud to wear my red poppy and observe the silence not merely as a mark of respect, but as a reminder of the humility I feel in grateful thanks for the ultimate sacrifice of those brave men and women. I will remember them.
– David
I think it is wrong to think of Remembrance Day as refering only to those who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. We are still involved in conflicts to this day, and those who gave their lives recently should be thought of in the same way as those who died in the two World Wars. The families who are left grieving deserve to have their loved ones honoured no matter when or where they gave their lives.
– George
Men and women, past and present have given their lives for the price of freedom. Whether or not we agree with certain foreign policies today should not deter from the fact that our service men and women are loyal to our country and fight to ensure that our borders are safe and we have democracy. I for one thank them all and thank God that we have them their to look out for us. Many of their critics have most likely never fought in combat or even served in the forces; how can they possibly knock them?
– Claire
I don’t think of Remembrance Day as just a veterans day; it is also for the friends that I have who have passed on fighting for their country no matter what year or what battle. May their spirit live on.
– Samantha
It’s Sunday. But this isn’t just another weekend, it’s Remembrance Sunday and for many, a day off work, a day to relax or to catch up on things undone but it’s also the day when we remember our dead. And that’s something we can’t be allowed to forget. To do so would be to betray those who gave their lives that others might live. We’re only here because of them. The ones who didn’t come back, the ones who lie buried beneath foreign soil.
And the ones that did survive? They grow fewer every year. And if they’re not here to remind us, then who will? Who will remind us of the countless millions lost?
Buy a poppy, wear it with pride; do as I did this morning: stop whatever you are doing, bow your head and give thanks that you live in a country where principles still count for something, where freedom is yours and your children don’t go to bed with hunger in their bellies.
I’m not a warmonger; I’m a mother and a grandmother, so I don’t believe in sending my children off to die. But I do accept the concept that sometimes you have to stand up and be counted. That sometimes you have to fight for those you hold dear. And I firmly believe that if we chose to forget our dead, then we conveniently forget why they fought in the first place. So others may live. That, I believe, says it all.
– Audrey
I can not believe people want to ban it, I’m disgusted that it has even come into dispute. With everything going on in the world at the moment, MEN AND WOMEN STILL GIVING THEIR LIVES to make the lives of civilians better, and people want to argue whether we can give them two minutes of our time a year remembering what they have and are still doing for us? It must only be the small-minded self-centred people that would want this day forgotten.
How can we forget the people who we should be so grateful to? Men and women, old and young, past and present fighting to give us the freedom and life we have today. People may look round and think so my life ain’t that great, but to those I say "Turn on your your TV and you’ll see it can be a hell of a lot worse".
Remembrance Day isn’t just remembering those soldiers from World War One, it’s from every war that men and women have fought in and lost their lives. It gives time to also think of the men and women still fighting for their Queen, their country and you!! Yes, you people who want to forget it.
Put yourself in a soldier’s position for one moment, away from your family and friends with very little comforts, working long hard days and nights with little sleep, and when you are able to go to sleep you wonder if your going to wake up or are you going to get attacked during the night and get killed.
So when you go to bed tonight, having locked your house up making you feel safe, because really all you have to worry about is a burgular getting in, think of a soldier curling on a makeshift bed with a rifle stuck to his chest and trust in his fellow buddies to keep him safe.
Let’s make a stand, like men and women of the past. IF YOU AGREE WITH REMEMBRANCE DAY TELL THE WORLD WEAR YOUR POPPY WITH PRIDE; if someone asks you what you are wearing it for, tell them FOR THE HEREOS WE WILL NEVER FORGET!!
– Samantha

In a recent poll conducted by You Gov, 85% of those questioned stated they thought the traditional two-minute Remembrance Day silence was still "relevant".
To me, there seemed something deeply reassuring about this statistic; in that, despite our ever-more anniversary-obsessed world, and in the face of a recent profusion of similarly sober-tinged "official" silences, this enduring Armistice Day acknowledgement of those killed in past wars retains such an overriding potency and poignancy.
Saying that, I haven’t really been struck by an equally commanding surfeit of poppies being sported by my fellow residents, workers and travellers during the last couple of weeks. Having lived in Liverpool for the past 12 years, where Remembrance Sunday was always marked in a very pronounced fashion, I’ve detected a possible indifference towards the day amongst Londoners. I’ve hardly seen any poppies worn by folk in the streets or at work. I’ve also noticed people regarding my own poppy with looks of suspicion and bemusement.
In light of this, I asked around MSN Towers to see what people really thought of Remembrance Sunday and whether they still considered it "relevant".  
The fact that the day represents an important link with the past, in particular previous generations of friends and close family, was stressed by one colleague: "Most people in this country have relatives and forebears who took part in or were otherwise affected by war – and some of them will have paid the ultimate price for defending their country in order that we can have the freedoms and prosperity we have today. For that reason we should salute them."
A contrasting but no less relevant point of view was put by another. "As someone who wasn’t born or educated in the UK, I didn’t understand the relevance of poppies and I’m sure thousands of newcomers to the UK are the same. Having said that, I think it is still important to observe the day and observe the silence."
The literal price of remembrance was the subject of this comment from one colleague: "Walking through the Underground last night, I kept seeing bits of red paper and little black plastic sticks strewn all over the floor and stuck going round and round the escalator. It made me wonder how much it costs to make and then clean up the poppies, and if that money might be better spent going directly in the coffers of veterans or people in need, instead of pinned, sagging, to our winter lapels."
The overriding consensus, however, was that the day retained some significance, and should continue to do so in a way that perhaps needed to be made more obvious. "Saluting the heroes of the First World War shouldn’t be something we question," argued one person. "Yes, the number of surviving ex-serviceman lessens year on year. Yes, the significance of the two minutes silence is not what it once was. But we need to remember that these people put themselves through one of the most savage, horrific wars ever documented. A living hell that’s almost impossible to imagine. And they did this to defend something they believe in, for you and me. I’m absolutely positive that the world would be completely unrecognizable to how it is today if it weren’t for their efforts. So buy a charitable poppy, continue to dedicate a ceremony to those that lost their lives and most importantly remember their sacrifice."
"I think it’s really important, now more than ever, that we still mark Remembrance Sunday by the wearing of poppies, observing the two-minute silence and staging memorial ceremonies," added another. "Without wanting to sound two generations older than I am, I think people of my age (20s) and younger have absolutely no concept of how easy our lives are and how fortunate we are to be born at such a prosperous time.
Soon the veterans who have experienced the full horrors of war will no longer be here to tell the tale and keep the memory alive. It is therefore our duty to keep the tradition going and to always remember just what sacrifices ordinary men and women made – sacrifices we cannot begin to comprehend. I think, if anything, we should be doing more to push the message of remembrance, not less."
Are you marking Remembrance Sunday? Do you agree or disagree with any of the sentiments above? Perhaps you feel there’s an alternative, more appropriate way of remembering those who have given their lives in past conflicts and wars. Send in your thoughts and comments.
Meanwhile, even if you don’t go as far as observing a two-minute silence, I hope that, in whatever small way, you do choose to mark the occasion. The Royal British Legion have produced something which might help set things in a moving, thoughtful and above all contemporary context. 
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