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remembrance day

  • 'They shall not grow old as we grow old'

    Plaintive thoughts on Remembrance Day morning

    A cold, grey morning on a village green in Oxfordshire. A patch of marble chippings and three of us clutching our wreaths, lined out before the little war memorial.

    The names of a dozen or so from the village, fallen in two World Wars. The parish priest's surplice catches in the breeze, but his voice is that of a millitary chaplain, clear and uncompromising.

    He calls out the prayers for peace and reconciliation. A light aircraft drones overhead, an aimless buzzing. "Perhaps it's Douglas Bader!" – a quiet voice behind me jokes.

    To my left, a representative of the British Legion. She is smartly dressed, as she is every year; gloved, medals pinned to her coat: "or it could be my Tommy!" she says, so softly.

    We walk to the memorial in turn, gently place the wreath, step back and bow our heads for a few moments. The British Legion standards are dipped and then are raised again as we all declare 'we shall remember them!'.

    Afterwards a frail hand suddenly rests on my arm. At the memorial, for a moment, she stumbled and almost fell: "trouble is I'm not used to these high shoes any more". And then a smile and "goodbye then – until next year!".