‘As the world turns, we must not for­get’

Ac­tor Joanna Lum­ley pas­sion­ately be­lieves in com­mem­o­rat­ing the courage of a lost gen­er­a­tion of men.

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - 58 -

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.

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