Sophie Thorpe

SOPHIE THORPE urges us all to remember the people who are most easily forgotten.

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As week five blues hit, splashes of red start to appear on lapels, TV personalities dutifully don paper flowers, and coins clatter into tins across the country. And halfway through week six, Remembrance Day will arrive and services will be held around the country to commemorate the lives lost in times of war. Shots are fired, silence fills the streets, and we utter those heavy words: “We will remember them.”

And then we go home. Our poppies are thrown in the bin and our thoughts for those who sacrificed their lives for us – and those who continue to do so – are put aside for another year. We forget.

It’s all too easy to do. After all, who wants to spend their days remembering those who are gone? Who wants to linger on the ghastly deaths of people we didn’t know? We all want to move on and look towards the future. So why bother at all? As I’ve come to realise, this is the attitude of many.

One German student told me that he didn’t see the point. “Why should I wear a poppy?” he asked me. I couldn’t believe it. I would have been shocked by such an attitude from anyone, but it wasn’t just anyone. He was German. It should have mattered to him, but it didn’t. But it’s not just my German friend. Last year, another friend asked if she could borrow my poppy so she wouldn’t have to pay for one herself. In the past, someone stole the British Legion tin from the Downing Porters’ Lodge, and so now it has to be chained down.

Men and women give up their lives so that we can stay safely in England. It’s thanks to them that our biggest worries are little more than which night to go out on, or whether or not to buy a new dress. Do their families and them not deserve a few of your pounds, perhaps the cost of one VK, in return for their efforts?

My family have nothing to do with the army and I never took the opportunity to discuss the horrors of war with my grandparents, but the memories that have been recorded in poetry and prose have rammed home the grim reality of the world wars. Wilfred Owen’s image of a gassed trench has haunted me since I first read it when I was 10. Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier brings me to the point of tears and the words of John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields will never leave me. How could anyone who has read these words be able to ignore this day?

As I marched along the street yesterday, a little girl looked up at my poppy and turned to ask her mother: “Why is everyone wearing those flowers?” That is why we sport those little red flowers. So people cannot help but remember those who sacrificed everything for us and those men and women who are still fighting and dying for us now.

In the chapel of each college, there is a wall that is filled with the names of men – often boys our age – who were packed off to Europe instead of completing their Cambridge degrees. These are people who didn’t have time to think about graduate schemes or going out. And so please, when at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month you utter the words: “We will remember them,” let it be true.