Well it’s Remembrance Day and as an ex-military man, it always comes with poignant memories. I lost quite a few really good friends, comrades-in-arms, all real heroes, during my twenty-odd years flying about in RAF jets. Time is a great healer and I do find that I now look back and remember my mates’ spirit and the various scrapes and adventures we enjoyed together. Most unprintable and thankfully before cameras on mobile phones became common-place
Flying is a strange game. Whether you’re flying Ops in war zones, training for deployment or even mundane daily training, no matter where you are in the World, your uninvited wing-man was always the Grim Reaper. When tragedy too-often struck, I’d rage about the injustice so angrily and beautifully expressed in the opening of Dylan Thomas’s marvellously apt poem.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
But for me a line in a later stanza captures the Joie-de-vivre of the good people I had the privilege to know
“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight”
‘Tom’ who after a really heavy night would spend the whole night sobering up by ironing. As dawn broke he’d have a pile of thrashed shirts and hands with third-degree burns.
‘Dick’ who arranged all the logistics and ‘entertainment’ for my 24-hour endurance stag-night in Alaska. Never to be forgotten.
‘Harry’ who flew too close to the burning Sun and was claimed by the unforgiving desert sands of time.
Daft memories and I could go on, but I know their names mean lots to me and little to you. Plus in this current climate I’m certain you’ve your own memories of fallen comrades. I’m immensely proud of the public support we give to our Armed Forces, typified by Royal Wootton Bassett. Long may this continue.
Come rain or shine I’ll be outside at 11 o’clock, honouring the memory of those who throughout history and sadly right up to the present day, have made the Ultimate Sacrifice in the Service of their country. I’ll finish with Binyon’s “Ode of Remembrance”
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
I’ll stand proud during the 2 minute silence, go slightly misty eyed during the “Ode to Remembrance” and during the ever-emotive playing of the Last Post on the haunting bugle, then tip my hat and quietly smile at the memories of those fine people with whom I was proud to Serve.
I will remember them.