I was very fortunate in life. My father was born in 1931 so he was too young to fight in WW 2 and my 2 grandfathers were born in the early`1900’s so were too young and too old to fight in in both wars. I did however have an uncle my father’s sister’s husband who was part of the disastrous British Expeditionary Force that was driven out of Europe by the Germans via the Dunkirk evacuation. My uncle Herbie had to swim a half mile out to a waiting fishing boat in his underwear. Hoping not to get hit by the constant bombing of Stuka dive-bombers or the strafing of German machine gun fire from the beach head. He arrived in Dover in his underwear and nothing else no shoes no socks just his underwear and a stinky blanket from the fishing boat.
After a period in Britain he was shipped off to fight the Japanese in the South East Asian Theatre. He fought alongside his a comrades from Bombay all the way down to Burma. His exploits during the war are a story for another Remembrance Day. But I have a Nepalese (Gurka) Kukri knife that Herb was given by a Gurka officer at the end of the war. He gave it to my father when he returned home and my father gave it to me a year or two before he died. It is one of my most prized possessions.
The reason I give you this little bit of my family background, today the day after Remembrance Day. Is in the lead up to yesterday, I was perusing through Twitter, Facebook and the internet news sites and I saw a few things that really disturbed me. The first was the sudden appearance of white poppy’s. In case you had not seen them they are the peaceniks answer to the red poppy. It first appeared in the UK in the 1930’s. The first that I personally heard of it was in the late 80’s when Margaret Thatcher was asked about it in question period in the House of Commons and she expressed her “deep distaste” for the symbol. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about it. It goes without saying that most of us want peace. I am pretty sure when my uncle Herb was swimming towards that fishing boat he wanted nothing more than peace in his life, but unfortunately the Germans on the business end of the machine guns had a different idea. To me the red poppy is sacred. It is a symbol of the sacrifice every person makes that puts on a uniform and goes and fights in our name and in the name of keeping us free to live in peace. So go celebrate peace with some other symbol at some other time, but leave the red poppy alone.
The next thing that really annoyed me was a story in of all places over the weekend in the Daily Mail. It was supposedly a feel good story about a British clothes designer that came up with a novel idea on how to help Britain’s Muslim ladies pay respect on Remembrance Sunday (in Britain they pay respect on the Sunday before 11th November). It was called the poppy hijab different types of headwear that had a white background with a multitude of poppies all over it. Apparently these Hijabs are backed by mainstream Muslim groups including the Islamic Society of Britain and profits from its sale are donated to the Poppy Appeal.
Mark Steyn did a column on it in his excellent Steyn on line blog he stated:
“Well, that’s very nice of them, I’m sure, and the ladies look very charming in them. But, if they wished to reject “extremist groups” and support the armed forces, why couldn’t they just wear the same poppies that everybody else wears? Why does a communal ritual observed by the Queen’s subjects in every corner of the earth – Canadian, Bermudian, Tuvaluan, black, white, Protestant, Hindu – have to be Islamified to accommodate them?“
Which pretty much sums up how I feel about it.
Last but not least; the Essex County (Ontario down near Windsor) School Board put out a memo last week that any Muslim children were exempt if they wished from taking part in Remembrance Day ceremonies at all the schools within its jurisdiction if they felt uncomfortable about it. At the risk of being accused of being Islam-a-phobic I will refrain from giving my usual in depth analysis of this. But I will say one thing: All of us from many parts of the world, white, black, Asian, Christian, Jews, Hindus and yes even Muslims enjoy the benefits of a free society. Because many before us put on a uniform bared arms and fought for it and died for it.
As I said quietly to myself yesterday at 11 am and as I say every year at the same time – “Thanks Uncle Herbie”.