hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Saturday, 12 November 2011

For the Fallen

London, 11 November, 2011. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year I was in London in silence for two minutes remembering our war dead. I had the honour of addressing the Royal College of Defence Studies on British grand strategy - the organisation of large national means in pursuit of large national ends.

British politician Aneuran Bevan once famously said; “This island is almost made of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish in Great Britain at the same time.” My message was equally acute; for London to have simultaneously lost critical influence at a critical juncture at one and the same time with its key security partner Washington and its key economic partners via Berlin and Brussels is an act of perverse political genius no less profound.

Too often the British Tommy has paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice filling the gap between Britain's ends and means. 1968 was the only year since the eighteenth century that a British serviceman or woman has not been lost on Crown service.  

Therefore, in fitting tribute to them and their comrades I will quote in full Lawrence Binyon::

“With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal, Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, There is music in the midst of desolation, And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, 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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known, As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain”.

Julian Lindley-French

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