Today is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle of the Somme. Here is EBF’s tribute to the brave men and women of all races and religions who fought alongside Britain over the years. This PDF download was originally posted as a series of articles on the EBF blog throughout Armistice Day 2015.
This was posted on a thread a couple of days ago. We thought as many people as possible should read it, so we decided to make it a post in it’s own right. Many thanks to John Mansfield for sharing.
“I’m banned from Britain First, but when I read some of these comments, my blood boiled, and I immediately created a new fake account, with the specific purpose of posting this. It’s a story I’ve posted on this page before several times. Regular followers may recognise it. To them, I beg your indulgence, but this sort of vile hatred gets my back right up. I have added a comment at the bottom just for the biffers.
When I first left school in 1975, I worked in the museum and art gallery in Liverpool. Most of the men who worked there were older than me. Many of them had fought in the second world war. There were stories to be told and fascinating memories to be shared. I developed a huge respect for these men and interest in their own stories. History is always more interesting when it is personal.
There was A, a man who had flown in Lancaster bombers over Germany night after night and survived despite coming close to death several times, seeing friends go down in flames, or simply not be there the following day. He had survived a crash-landing and had a steel plate in his skull. He was an alcoholic.
There was S, who had served in the navy on the Russian convoy run. He described seeing ships go down in the freezing water and being unable to stop to pick up any survivors. He remembered never wearing a life-jacket when manning his anti-aircraft gun, despite standing orders to do so, because it got in the way and would be a waste of time in water that was so cold he would last less than a minute anyway. I don’t remember ever seeing him smile.
Then there was Lenny. He was the most genial, easy-going man. Always had a cheery smile and greeting. He was always ready to help and the first to crack a joke. He was inoffensive, polite and a genuinely nice man. He had children and grandchildren who he worshipped, and ha always spoke of them with smiling eyes. He never, NEVER, EVER, lost his temper. Yes, he talked about the war as well. He had been a tank driver with The Guards Armoured Division.
Lenny told me funny stories. Like the time in Normandy when his commander had ordered an emergency fire mission to support some American infantry advancing across a neighbouring field. His tank was parked behind a large haystack and as the gunner aimed, Lenny stalled the tank on starting it. The flash from the gun set fire to the haystack, the burning hay covered the tank and they all had to bail out to extinguish the fire, then got a colossal bollocking for making the whole squadron look like idiots. He told me about driving through Antwerp during its liberation. “Never been kissed by so many girls in me life!” Someone gave him a cigar and lit it for him, then slapped him on the back. The cigar fell out of his mouth and down inside his overalls, setting fire to his underpants!
Those were Lenny’s memories. The funny, ‘Dad’s Army’ stuff.
Then, one day, some idiot was handing out some National Front literature in the canteen. He gave a leaflet to Lenny. Len stood up, glaring at the man. He said nothing for a few seconds, then screwed it up and threw it in the man’s face. He said, “you can take that filth and shove it up your f*^#ing arse!” Then he walked out. I had never heard Lenny swear before. Not so much as a “Bloody Hell” or even a “Damn”. I followed him. He was outside lighting up a cigarette, his hands shaking. I asked him if he was ok and he apologised to ME! He said, “Those fools don’t know what it means, or where it can lead”.
Later that day, when he had calmed down a bit, he told me another story. His unit had been one of the first into Belsen. He told me about the initial confusion, and being baffled by seeing people in striped pyjamas wandering by the roadside. He told me about the silent shock they all felt as they drove through the gates. He told me all about the heaps of bodies, about the dreadful, all-pervading smell, about the last German guards attempting vainly to hide the truth, about the huts full of dead, about the still living, who looked dead. He had volunteered to drive a bulldozer to bury the corpses. He did it breathing through a rag soaked in petrol, but it still didn’t mask the smell. He admitted to still not being able to sleep a whole night, without seeing it again.
The following day, he was back to normal. The genial comic, who always had something good to say and a smile for everyone. He had not an ounce of bitterness or hatred in him. He always saw the best in people and would do anything to help anyone, right up to the day he retired, which was the last time I saw him. He’s in his late 80s or early 90s now, if he’s still kicking. A lovely man.
I am a teacher now. Every Remembrance Day, I tell my students about Lenny and his stories, all of them.
He is the best example I know, of someone who has seen humanity at it’s very worst and yet, still spent the rest of his life trying to be one of the best.
He is still, and always will be, a hero to me.
TO ALL THE IDIOTS WHO ARE SAYING THAT YOU’D LIKE TO USE THIS EVIL PLACE AGAIN TO DO THE SAME THING TO MUSLIMS – WHEN YOU POST FILTH LIKE THIS YOU ARE SHITTING ALL OVER THE MEMORIES OF THE FINEST GENERATION OF PEOPLE THIS COUNTRY EVER PRODUCED. SHAME ON YOU!!!
People like Lenny, who fought the Nazis, the evil murderers who you seem to admire so much, ARE this country, I’d like to see you low-life scumbags just try to ‘take it back’ from them!!!!”
I fully expect this to be deleted from BF’s page within minutes, but I had to say something to these bottom-dwelling, ignorant Slimeballs”.
This day we declare war on British Fascism and its public face, Britain First:
Article 1. We declare war, we need no guns, no bombs, no violence. Our armour is truth, our swords compassion, our guns equality, our missiles peace;
Article 2. We declare war on your racism, bigotry and lies;
Article 3. We declare war on your abuse of the abused;
Article 4. We declare war to protect the memories of two young fathers, brutally slain. Let them rest in peace;
Article 5. The world stood united 70 years ago and breathed a sigh of relief. They had stood as one to crush the Fascist oppression, 60 million dead, humanity broken;
Article 6. Britain First your ideology died in a dirty Berlin Bunker in 1945. We will not stand by and let your bigotry make Muslims the Jews of 1933. You shout the Unionist catch phrase of ‘No surrender’. We shout, scream and cry ‘NEVER AGAIN’;
Article 7. Britain is one nation, a myriad of cultures, languages and beliefs. Rich beyond your shallow money obsessed dreams. Rich because of our differences, our heritage made stronger with each new immigrant. Our strength is our diversity, our future is multicultural;
Article 8. Britain is one nation representing ALL nations;
Article 9. We challenge your leaders to come to EBF. Come and justify your FASCIST ideology, your lies, your deceit. Send your trolls and we will crush them! Send your soldiers and we will smash them! Live by social media – Die by social media;
Article 10. Censorship, Hate, Ignorance, Hate, Bigotry – your weapons are weak.
We are 73 thousand strong, we are family. We are EBF.
WE ARE THE PRIDE. WE ARE AT WAR!
Download the full collection of today’s blog posts EBF They fought for us
Unlike many people I haven’t been directly affected by war. My father wasn’t in a war, I have no close personal friends who are or have been in the forces and I never enlisted myself. I did once admire the uniforms and considered a career as a WREN, although options in those days for women were quite limited.
My dad was a child in WWII. He was gas mask monitor at school – can you imagine that? Gas mask monitor?! They had drills to evacuate the school to show the children how to get into the bunkers. He told stories about how a plane crashed in woods nearby and all the children in the town ran up to the woods to see the Gerry, some got a piece of the plane as a trophy. My late father in law grew up next to an Italian PoW camp and told funny stories of how the local children used to run errands for the PoW’s.
A more distant figure in my life, my Grandad, enlisted in a Pals Regiment for WWI. He was 16 years old when he signed up. Four friends went together to join for King and country, in response to their local landowner and employer parading on horseback through their village, in uniform with a band playing and flags flying. Two of them came back. Grandad’s friend wrote a book about it. That’s how I know his history. He never talked about it. Not at all. He just came back and picked up his life, married his sweetheart and raised a family.
An uncle, who I saw maybe twice a year, who was invalided out of WWII was in the volunteer fire service in his village. In spite of being somewhat distant, his relatively small experience of war impacted on me the most. He told me he remembered being at work – he was a farm manager for several estates – and he heard the village siren sounding and sure enough there had been a plane crash. He had been deeply affected by finding bits of a man’s body scattered about the field, he couldn’t erase the image of tht man’s severed hand just lying there.
These aren’t huge or heroic stories. These are the stories if ordinary people who lived their lives…but when my uncle told me about his experience, he was crying. I was around 7 and was in church with him on Remembrance Sunday and I asked him why he wasn’t singing. We were supposed to be singing ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea’ and he didn’t sing. The answer was, he couldn’t. I can still see the look on his face as he turned to me and the tears spilled over his eyes. He gestured for me to shush and dried his eyes as we sat down. Afterwards, after the laying of the wreaths and the last notes of the last post had died away, he sat me down in front of the war memorial and told me about all his friends who had died, how he lost everyone he knew and wasn’t with them. Instead of being there he was picking up severed arms in fields, and he cried. I’d never seen a man cry until then and his pain was so real. He impressed upon me the belief that we must never, never forget.
And I haven’t forgotten. As I’ve got older I’ve become much more left wing than any members of my family, joined CND and the Stop the War Coalition. I’ve learned the history of the White Poppy and the Purple Poppy. I’ve considered how I should still remember without glorification of war and the military and how I could show that I sought peace without insulting those who have suffered.
I am asked, occasionally, why I wear three poppies. Not many are aware of the purple poppy to remember how we have abused animals in the name of war and that is easily explained, but people seem to think that I should choose the red or the white. I should choose between remembering and a belief that killing should stop. I ask them who they think would go through war again; the old boys and girls who lived through WWII and parade with their polished medals remembering comrades who didn’t come home? Those who stayed here and lost friends and family? Those who came back with life changing injuries? What about the Falklands veterans who have told me their own horror stories or the young men now, returning from Afghanistan having seen things that humans should never have to witness and endure. Do they still think it’s a good idea for more people to go through that? I don’t and it’s my right not to want that to happen again. My white poppy represents both remembering the loss and pain, and the desire for peace.
So why wear a red poppy at all? Because my white poppy offends people. Because wearing a red poppy has become almost compulsory, and not to wear one is thought to spit on the memory of the fallen. Because it can be seen as an affront to all those old boys and girls who think I hate what they did. And because I do remember them.
Because I am anti-war, doesn’t mean I am anti soldier/airman/sailor. Because I want peace, doesn’t mean I don’t realise that sometimes we are told that war is a necessary evil and because I wear a white poppy next to my red one it doesn’t mean that I don’t respect and remember the dead and injured from conflicts past and present.
As the mother of four sons, who cried as ships set sail for the Falklands with my baby son on my knee, so sad that some mothers babies wouldn’t be coming back, I empathise with families today who are still facing their terrible loss. And not only for people who have lost their lives, but for those who didn’t, like my Grandad who never spoke about his experience but who’s friend’s book told it all, and explained why Grandad didn’t sleep. And my uncle who’s relatively minimal experience of war affected him and subsequently me, so much.
I now wear three poppies, to remember and to wish it never happens again. I no longer attend Remembrance Sunday with its military and quasi-military parades encouraging children to march – even the Brownies – to glorify the war dead. I go instead on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to a small handful of graves in the corner of the local cemetery and I stand there in silence – well, not always silence, I must admit, sometimes my sobs can be heard.
Download the full collection of today’s blog posts EBF They fought for us
The Poppy is the symbol of the Royal British Legion. When you buy a poppy from the RBL you are helping to raise money for veterans and their families who find themselves in need. But what does the poppy represent?
World War I, ‘The Great War’ as it was known by those who lived through it was fought in many countries on different continents by combatants from across the globe. It was fought on many different ‘fronts’ from Gallipoli in the Dardanelles to Arabia and Belgium, from Egypt and China to Flanders and, of course to the Poppy fields of Flanders.
The Western front followed the line of the Somme where, in the lazy heat of summers before the war, the landscape had burned red, not with fire or with blood but with the vivid red of thousands upon thousands of wild poppies. As four years of trench warfare dragged on the poppies mingled with the blood and the bones of the fallen from both sides until the poppy itself became associated with the wounded and the dead. Eventually even they disappeared under the morass of mud and decaying flesh but not before they found a symbolic place in the hearts and minds of a generation.
In May 1915, apparently shortly after officiating at the funeral of his fallen friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, Canadian artillery officer, Lt. Colonel John McCrea put pen to paper in remembrance of his fallen comrade. In doing so he forever associated fallen soldiers with the poppy that surrounded the battlefield of Ypres, In Flanders fields…
In Flanders Fields by Lt. Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Wave upon wave of reinforcements did indeed ‘take up the quarrel with the foe’ and wave upon wave met their end, not only in the long lines of trenches that scarred the landscape of the Western front but across the globe. 51 long months of war resulted in the deaths of 11 million combatants and 7 million civilian men, women and children. An additional 20 million were injured as a direct result of the war. This makes the period from August 1914 to November 11th 1918 one of the bloodiest episodes in all of human history. The localised conflict between Austria and Serbia that began on July 28th 1914 quickly escalated to encompass the globe with Germany declaring war on Russia on August 1st and on France two days later. Great Britain joined the war on August 4th 1914.
Four years of stalemate in France and unimaginable slaughter in other theatres of conflict created a protracted war of attrition with each side ‘throwing men to their deaths’ in the hope that the enemy’s losses would be greater and more damaging than their own. It was a brutal, cynical time as commanders on both sides ordered sacrifice upon sacrifice, the British at sites like Ypres or Amiens, the French and Germans at the ancient fortress of Verdun.
In the end, Germany blinked first. Kaiser Wilhelm surrendered, his exhausted and greatly depleted forces were no match for the renewed vigour of his enemies following America’s entry into the war. Hostilities ceased at 11am on the 11th November, 1918… the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, as it will forever be known.
The war was over.
On June 28th 1919, exactly 5 years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (the event that triggered The Great War) the victorious allies had the Germans sign the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty came complete with a commitment to crippling reparations in compensation for the losses and costs of the war. The payments would cripple the German economy and ultimately lead to World War 2 after what one French soldier, Marshall Ferdinand Foch described not as a ‘peace’ but as a ‘20 year armistice’. He was correct, almost to the day.
When we combine the armistice of November 11th with the image of the poppy we have a powerful symbol of remembrance, of gratitude and of peace. The poppy represents both the tragedy and the heroism of war. Here in UK it also symbolizes the work of the Royal British Legion, its fundraising and the charitable assistance it provides to the families of the fallen and to surviving servicemen and women in need.
That’s why we urge you to buy your poppy from the Royal British Legion and in some small way give something back to those who bought and continue to pay for our freedoms.
Download the full collection of today’s blog posts EBF They fought for us
On November 11th 2015, Exposing Britain First will remember the 11 million military personnel and the 7 million civilian men, women and children who lost their lives in The Great War. We also will take the opportunity to commemorate those who have fallen in future conflicts in defence of our freedoms and especially in the defeat of the Nazis during World War II.
It was the struggle against Nazism in the Second World War that led to the freedoms of the modern world and it is in defence of those freedoms that we at EBF are dedicated. We aren’t exactly soldiers and most of us have never been on an active battlefield but that doesn’t prevent our respect for those who have. It certainly doesn’t keep us from trying to protect the freedoms and liberties for which they fought, freedoms that Britain First would remove from this wonderfully diverse country and its citizens.
We don’t want to glorify war but equally we think it appropriate to remember those who were caught up in it. Wars are started by politicians but on the whole, they are fought by ordinary people. Governments start wars but those who are governed die in them.
There have been many heroes from across the world who fought on behalf of freedom for all people. These individuals faced great dangers and often lost their lives in defence of the liberties that we Brits enjoy today. It is right that we honour their sacrifice, that we remember their cause and that we do what little we can to alleviate the suffering of the wounded and the bereaved today.
Beginning at 11am on November 11th (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day) we will publish each hour on the hour a series of blog posts in honour of those whose lives were lost in both World War I and World War II. Each blog will contain a link to the Royal British Legion site where you can donate to support those who remain.
If you have a story to tell, perhaps about your own relative or even about yourself and your experiences in wartime let us know. Send us your articles and we’ll do our best to include them. Please note however, the focus of the day’s blogs will be remembrance of war, not upon the evils of Britain First. There are 364 other days in a year to expose modern Nazism. On Armistice Day we’re much more concerned with remembering those who beat the Nazis down last time than with focusing upon their modern ideological descendants.
You can submit your articles for inclusion on the day and/or in the PDF collection by emailing the EBF blog at email@example.com. It’d be great to include more from our supporters. Please note that EBF does reserve the right to edit for spelling and grammar, to correct inaccuracies and to provide internet links if necessary (including the link to the RBL for donations). We also reserve the right to reject articles that don’t fit the themes of the Armistice Day project as a whole.
This link leads to a special blog category which we have developed specifically for Armistice Day. Every one of our hourly blogs will link to it so all you need to do is click here to follow the collection as it unfolds on Armistice Day.
We will also produce a PDF collection of all the blogs in the series which will be available for download from 11/11/15 onwards, complete with links to the Royal British Legion should you wish to make a donation to that great cause.