‘As the world turns, we must not forget’
Actor Joanna Lumley passionately believes in commemorating the courage of a lost generation of men.
Ialways watch the Cenotaph service on television on Remembrance Sunday because I find it intensely moving, and of course I wear a poppy. I think some people have the wrong idea that a poppy is about warfare. It isn’t, it’s about remembering all those who died, the hundreds of thousands of young men who went off to fight in the war and the sacrifice they made.
Two young men from my family died in Arras, northern France – one was 21 and the other was 20. They were young officers and went out there and, like practically everybody on those terrible battlefields, were killed. So as a family we lost two boys in the First World War, but many families lost four boys, five boys, sons, fathers and uncles. The devastation was absolute. We all know that you never get over the shock of losing a young person, someone who was in the prime of life, especially losing them in the most ghastly way. In those days, families often didn’t even get the body back, it wasn’t brought home, it was buried in the mud and blood of a Flanders field. We really are remiss if we forget the vivid pain that so many families felt and the extraordinary courage of all the men who went. We need to remember the horror of that war, the scale of it and the impact it had on the world. As the world turns, we must not forget.
One of the most memorable things I have ever done is visit the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. Every single day they play The Last Post, lay a wreath and the place is always packed. Ypres was flattened in the war – a man on a horse could look across the entire city, it was so beaten by the Germans. It’s also surrounded by First World War cemeteries. Anyone who is a bit ‘Oh well’ about the war should go to that part of Belgium and they’ll gain an instant respect, an ache in the heart and a determination not to forget. It’s about not forgetting the sacrifice and how easy it is for blood to be shed.