Sunday 11 November 2012

It’s quite a vague concept Remembrance Sunday. Vague isn’t the right word. For a lot of people it signifies remembering those who died at war/in wars gone by. Really it’s just about World War I¹, Armistice Day. The wearing of the poppy is the nation’s unequivocal support for the work of The Royal British Legion (at least that is what their website says). And I suppose it is. The idea of giving something back to those who gave so much is what lies behind the significance of the day and at some point in time it started being about more than just those who were lost in World War I.

I’m no military historian. In fact almost everything I know about wars comes from TV shows and is mainly limited to TV shows or films:

Blackadder Goes Forth no matter what other piece of fiction I mention after this none of them will be as funny or as moving as the fourth series of Blackadder. Almost every minute of the six episodes up to the last two minutes is as funny as almost anything I’ve had the pleasure of watching and the last two minutes is pretty fucking hard going. Is it hard going because it’s a madly real moment after all the madcap stuff that’s gone before or is it hard going because you get the very real feeling that some real people you care about are about to be killed. Fuck knows.

Saving Private Ryan doesn’t really have many laughs but it has a pretty savage opening salvo, according to people who actually went through it, it was as near to recreating the landings at Normandy as anyone had ever recreated. The constant fizzing of bullets in front of the camera and falling of bodies in every direction..it is fucking hectic. But the rest of the film was pretty dull. Unlike Band of Brothers, which is kind of the cousin of Saving Private Ryan. I was quite a few years behind on BoB but I’m glad I got there.

There are plenty of others – I realised I was just getting into listing all the things I’d watched set in World War I. And while this is kind of like remembering those who died at war – it is more like remembering some good TV shows.

Actually, in recent times the most heartbreaking thing I read about war type stuff was about World War II – though it seems so backward it’s hard to believe it wasn’t World War I.  Despite not really being interested in boats I found myself becoming a fan of the BBC4 show The Boats That Built Britain and the last one was about Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel, LVCP. These landing boats were basically just massive skips that had loads of soldiers rammed into them. And when I say they were like skips I mean they were essentially skips, they were big skip shaped metal people carriers – here is a picture of one, it looks like a picture of a skip.

And this episode of TBTBB had someone recounting how they set sail from the English coast for the beaches of France in these fucking big skips. It’s bad enough if you just think of these supposed boats as really just massive skips. But they were massive skips into which young men were loaded to be sent to beaches to walk into the guns of German guns. But before that, before most of them walked into this gunfire that killed them instantly on a foreign beach, before that these young men spent the last few hours of their lives in a big skip in the early hours of the June morning (so it was dark) on the English Channel in a fucking skip.

And that is easily braver than anything I have ever done all will ever do in my life. So, yeah, it’s good that this day exists to remember what people did, what people gave for others.

Bit serious there. Bonkers.

¹(the only original part of any sequence that has the one – even Rocky, the first film is called Rocky – not Rocky I, no matter what anyone tries to tell you)

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