REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY

Reprinted for Remembrance Sunday as a reminder of the horror of all wars.


The Clydebank Blitz.

Remembrance Sunday

Has always been a big deal in my life and the lives of my family. Being brought up in Clydebank I was very aware of the war and going to school through the bombed out tenements in the late nineteen fifties and early sixties. The Clydebank Blitz occurred between the 13-15 March 1941 and only 8 houses in the town were left unscathed. 1200 were killed, well over 1000 seriously injured and many others were left with lesser injuries. 35,000 people were left homeless.

I remember as a young child digging in the spare ground opposite our house and finding lots of broken China smashed to smithereens. It was only later as I grew up I learned that spare ground had been homes destroyed by the Luftwaffe and the broken China had belonged to the families whose homes had been destroyed in the blitz.

My dad became a local minister in Clydebank. He had worked in a steelworks in Lanarkshire on the nights of the blitz. He could see the fires in Clydebank from his garden in Stepps where he lived. Amongst his duties in the steelworks he was a qualified first aider. He got on his bike and cycled to Clydebank to see if he could help. On his way back to Stepps some days later he went home via the RAF offices in Glasgow where he surrendered his “reserved occupation” and joined the fight against fascism. He served in Golspie, Egypt and Greece during the war. He had a lucky escape as he was on a troopship heading for Singapore. They had just passed through the Suez Canal when news of the surrender of Singapore came through. After a delay the troopship returned to Egypt and my father, along with everyone else became part of the British Forces in the Middle East. A few weeks earlier and he could have been a Japanese Prisoner of War.

He was always very emotional on Remembrance Sunday. I was a bugler in the Boys Brigade and was part of the trio who played the Last Post at the service each year. I remember the church being packed at those services as I am sure others, outside the normal congregation, attended that service and regarded it as a very special event. It always was in Clydebank.

My dad, if he had lived would have been 100 this year, as it was he passed away in his 93rd year. As he was only 18 at the start of the war, 20 on the nights of the blitz and lived until he was 92 he was amongst the last living of the wartime generation who actually fought in the war. Their time has been and gone and it is up to us to determine how best to remember and honour those who are gone.

My wife Celia during her period in office as Provost of Renfrewshire was part of the Holocaust Memorial Service when Renfrewshire hosted the annual event and was much moved by the experience as she was when she visited the war graves in Normandy. So much so she insisted I should accompany her on a further visit and shortly before Covid arrived we visited Arras in France and witnessed the horror that was WW1.

I hate the thought of war. I don’t think it is a thing of the past.It is different nowadays, even more terrible some might argue. It is perhaps not as widespread as a World War but just as deadly and final if you fall foul of it. Worryingly it appears frequently to be quite easy to start and the sophistication of the weapons allows much of the aggression to be controlled by remote controls far away from the target area. It changes war into even more of a game, making it impersonal. Literally just like a computer game where the value of a human life is of no account. That all makes wars much more likely.

I mention that because I think it important that front and centre of any remembrance of war must highlight the enormous tragedy and waste of lives involved. It should not be glorified but recognised for the political and diplomatic failure it represents.

I am not a peace at all costs person though. I recognise wars can be necessary where a state loses its ability to control its leaders and those uncontrolled leaders set out to persecute their own people or conquer other lands. While hoping that those leaders can be quickly overthrown, realistically it may take armed reverses to confirm to the rogue state  that there is no victory possible with violence.

So now that the Second War generation has passed I think people should demand a more balanced Remembrance Day that makes clear the futility of war and celebrates war’s absence from our lives. Now that is something I would be very happy to celebrate and remember each year, with it also thanking our service personnel for the role they play in maintaining that peace. I recognise being part of the UK then years without a war may be few and far between but I would be confident in an Independent Scotland it could become a regular event year on year. We would have no empire or imagined world status to defend.

I respect anyone who risks their own lives to defend ours but the aim should be that all efforts should be directed at making such sacrifice unnecessary and obsolete. Now that is what true victory would look like.

i am, as always

Yours for Scotland

A great song and video highlighting the total futility and waste of life war represents. It was commissioned to mark a new memorial and was played at the 2007 Tattoo in Passchendaele in that year.

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12 thoughts on “REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY

  1. Maybe more of us should reflect a on the recent humanitarian RAF bombing of Syria and Iraq because little has changed.

    My own view is that sadly our concern on Remembrance Sunday is that pomp and ceremony where the great and good go on parade.

    Indeed, take our own two SNP MPs Drew Henry and David Linden who flew out with a number of Tory MPs to celebrate Armistace Day with the UK military in one of Britain’s last colonies – Gibraltar.

    Not exactly the best choice of location. More maybe of a two finger salute to the Spanish

    Moreover by all accounts the flight out and later turned out to be a Jolly with assorted throng all going on the bevy – with one MP carted off in a wheelchair.

    Not quite what you’d expect from SNP MPs or the others – who you’d more expect this behaviour from.

    Anyway, for the decent people who gather together to commemorate terrible slaughter, as opposed to faux pomp, we all need to remember as much today, as yesterday, that the slaughter still continues.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. It is systems that make war. It is systems that lie, distort reality, cause people to venerate false redeemers and relativise notions of truth, fact, evidence.
    We live in such systems made more efficient in their purpose by the grace of meretricious media and increasingly institutions willing to compromise in order to secure commercial viability. The corruption of academia is a classic red light warning of encroaching socio-cultural turbulence.
    There is a war of attrition taking place in the Horn of Africa, one of the contemporary far away conflicts to remember.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Iain it was good that you and your wife was able to visit Arras in France, where more Scots fought together than at any other time in our history. My good friend Iain Thomson who sadly is no longer with us, and a good nationalist, wanted to build a National Monument in Arras for all the Scots that took part in the First World War from all the services. Iain approached the then First Minister Alex Salmond about this, and Alex was very supportive of the plan, and seen that meetings began in the Scottish Parliament to try to achieve this goal. Ireland have two National Monuments, one for Northern Ireland, and one for all Ireland, Wales also have their National Monument honouring their people. When Iain approached officials in Arras about this, they were very willing to take part, and offered land free of charge to build a Scottish National Monument. Suddenly the meetings stopped and we to this day have not been given a explanation as to why this happened. Iain had now passed away, and was so disappointed by these events. I and another friend wanted in Iains name try to achieve what he had started, I wrote to the now First Minister on two occasions requesting that the meetings restart, on both I received a reply from not Nicola Sturgeon but a official making excuses why the meetings could not take place. We reluctantly had to give up the fight as the authorities in Arras had made it clear that the Scottish Government backing was essential. I think it does not take much thought as to why this was shut down, but it is the Scottish people that are the loss in this. Any money that was raised was sent to Poppy Scotland.
    War solves nothing who were our enemies then are now our friends, it has always been that, and always will be. Scotlands young men were slaughtered on the battlefields of France, and we must make sure in an Independent Scotland that it never happens again.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I found it very emotional Graham. It is very sad that the Scottish Government did not progress this particularly when the French had been so supportive offering free land. It just adds to a ever growing list of things that disappoint me with the current SNP government.

      Liked by 7 people

  4. A final thought.
    Before the creation of the UK Scotland had only one real adversary after the blessed union it really was a case of «contra mundum». A good deal indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “A Just War Theory” has been converted into a form of apologetics for whatever atrocities your favored state is carrying out.”

    ―Noam Chomsky

    For me a true service to remember the casualties of War would be one without uniforms, military flags and banners.
    It would be a civilian service for ALL who died, injured or traumatised. After all far more civilians die in these Wars than combatants. Why must the horror of War be represented in a militaristic parade? We probably have several hundred civilian deaths for every soldier who dies.

    Why do we divide one death from another. Some names will go on a Cenotaph and a great deal more will not. We build a wall of Names for the Vietnam War but have no idea what the true casualties were or who they are.
    Are those who died in Dresden, London, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, etc less important because they did not don a uniform.

    The Service should not be exclusive of the “other” pointless deaths due to the failure of politicians.

    I take nothing away from the service of those who served in the Armed Services but I fear the use of such services is to condition the next generation of Nations for duty in the next War. It should be about raising awareness to ensure we do not have another War.

    Red versus Blue conflict is easy to create.
    Miner against miner. Mother against Mother, Joiner against Joiner is far harder – beware those who use uniforms to divide humanity.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. This reflects my feeling too, every Remembrance Day. With all that stress on ‘heroism’ and ‘sacrifice’, we could be back in the Victorian era with its vainglorious celebration of war and imperialism. When I was at school, there were still one or two members of staff who had served in the Second World War and the sentiment around Remembrance Day was different then. Wilfred Owen was much quoted and remembrance was about the pity and horror of war, For those of us born after the war, this struck home because there was still much fear generated by the threat of thermonuclear war ( I remember having nightmares.)

      Since then, there has been a change in the narrative for succeeding generations and war is always with us seemingly, although safely quarantined in other foreign parts. Much of the population seems to have little real understanding of where British troops are operating or what they are doing there, just like the days of Empire. Some of these wars have been going on longer than the Second World War, so much so that many young people have no idea of the origins of these more recent conflicts.

      The media does little to inform them either. They choose to ‘forget’, for instance, that the wars in Afghanistan actually began earlier than is often stated, with the imperialist meddling of the US and its toady, UK, to topple the Government of that country. The aim was to lure the Soviet Union into a damaging war to protect the elected Soviet-friendly government. It was the plan of Zbigniew Brzezinski to use the fundamentalist Islamic tribes as guerrilla forces and to this end, these tribal peoples were armed and trained. Brzezinski, the ultra Cold Warrior, had actually been warned by the CIA on station that giving such power to fundamentalists from the mountains could have societal repercussions for the rest of Afghanistan, particularly women. ( How prescient of the CIA) For Brzezinski, indifferent to their warnings, his plan worked perfectly, fatally weakening the Soviet Union and causing them to withdraw in ignominy – and we all know what happened to Afghanistan, embroiled in war and misery ever since, while the US and its allies also recently retreated in undignified chaos.

      It was the Great Game of the Victorian Era all over again and just like then, the population in the UK were in the dark, yet since then, despite expanding democracy by universal emancipation, things haven’t changed much; elites get to play their war games while their home populations appear uninformed and powerless to interfere and people in faraway countries suffer the carnage and horror and learn to hate the US and its allies who inflict biblical apocalypse on them. ( ‘Oh, Oh, What A Lovely War’ indeed.)

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I am with you on that Clootie , war is an abomination and should only be entered into for defense of your country , we ALL have and are witnessing the effects these unwarranted and corporate actions are having on the INHABITANTS and CITIZENS of these countries by turning them into the masses of refugees we see across the world

      Those refugees who are demonised and rejected by the very same countries and governments through whose actions have created the situation , it is a never ending spiral of misery created by the GREED of others

      What I cannot understand is those families who have lost sons or daughters to the CONFLICT or they have returned with severely life limiting injuries can absolve or excuse politicians who have been instrumental in creating the situation in the first place , e.g. Blair , Brown , Thatcher , and those severely injured are abandoned and pushed to rely on the charity of others and fighting the government for any recompence

      Liked by 4 people

  6. In my ideal Scotland, those wishing to publicly remember the victims of war would exclusively commemorate our own fallen, without union flags, brass trumpets and royalty got-up in uniforms and medals. There comes a point, it seems to me, where honouring the war-dead gets hi-jacked and propagandized into something more akin to an unquestioning legitimisation if not glorification of the long expired British empire and its ill-founded militaristic pretensions and overall exploitative and murderous nature.

    That the British ruling elite in 1914 played the “patriot” card to its own pocket-filling ends then stood idly by while its lamentably inept general-staff time after bloody time, sent wave after wave of innocent and predominantly young working-class Scots against a scything hail of machine gun fire and certain death at the Somme and elsewhere must, of course, always be remembered, and by all Scots.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Battle of Largs [1263] ended wars between Scotland and Norway. Thereafter we had, mostly defensive, was with our Southern neighbour. Since 1707 we have fought ? most other countries in the world on behalf of that neighbour. Let us hope and expect that independence will end this. We should aim for friendship with all.

    Liked by 5 people

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