Approximately 10 million soldiers died in the First World War. As a kid, and again as a young man, and again as an older man I have visited the site of The Battle of Vimy Ridge. Since my first visit I felt the desolation and despair of the place. It’s important to remember the high price of war, or ‘organised murder’, if you prefer the description given by the late Harry Patch. 10 million lives.

Approximately 7 million civilians died in the First World War. They did not sign up to fight, nor were they conscripted. Rather they were unceremoniously blown to bits, shot, burned, starved, diseased and destroyed. 7 million lives.

I choose to remember and I choose not to wear a remembrance poppy. I increasingly find myself in a minority. Even though we seem particularly bad at learning from it, I still think remembrance is vital. And I don’t wish to offend, but I choose to unite my remembrance of all the war dead from all conflicts, military and civilian alike. Whatever you think about the poppy as a symbol, it does not currently stand for that united remembrance.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Remembering”

  1. I agree that military & civilian deaths in a conflict should all be remembered. Not least because many civilians fought too.

    Both my parents fought in the Second World War. My father in the military, my mother by sheltering allied downed allied airmen in an occupied country. They and their relatives, friends, colleagues were as you say shot, starved, or diseased. They were lucky and survived their ordeals. I remember their fight with pride, and in the hope it never happens again.

    I agree that whenever, and whoever they may have been, those who died in war need to be remembered. And yes, on whatever side. For me, therefore the poppy has always been in remembrance of all of them. It is this united remembrance that will hopefully help us avoid the next war.

    So I can see why you may choose not to wear a poppy, I can also see how not doing so could easily be mis-interpreted. I wear one and if people mis-interpret it as remembering only the military, that’s OK. I know it is broader than that.

    1. Thanks Noel, I really appreciate you sharing your family experience. Your point about how you interpret the poppy was echoed by Owen over at the blog too. And Grahame also got in touch saying ‘If I understand it correctly, the white poppy is in remembrance of all victims of war’. I had wrongly assumed the white poppy was an anti war symbol, which it is, and it is also there to remember all who lost their lives, military and civilian alike.

      I then heard from Adrian who said, ‘ There’s a lot of opposition to the white poppy from some who feel it detracts from the meaning behind the red one. I’m in favour of it especially as civilian casualties vastly outnumber military ones. Some people place a white circle inner in the centre of their poppy which i think is a good overall remembrance symbol’. I think he is right, there is a lot of opposition to the white poppy. Margaret Thatcher famously objected to it whilst in office, and sales of it rose as a result.

      I ended up in a fairly heated exchange with Carole yesterday evening as she too felt that what matters most is how the wearer interprets the symbol, and if they choose to see it as remembrance for all that is enough.

      Ultimately I think red or white can be divisive, and I would prefer there to be an acknowledged mark of respect for all.

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