At exactly this time of year several years ago I passed an elegant old war memorial in the middle of a wide road in the centre of Jabalpur, which is truly in the Heart of India. I just managed to read ‘In memory of All the Men of all classes and creeds who sacrificed their lives …’ I could not read the full inscription as we drove by, but that most poignant of phrases sums up the sacrifice of so many in the twentieth century.
In the 4th century BC Aristotle said ‘we make war that we might live in peace…’ and then several hundred years later Calgacus, chief of the Picts, the then inhabitants of my native Scotland said ‘They have made a desert and they call it peace…’ referring to the conquering Roman army. Those phrases are as pertinent to day as when they were first uttered.
Whether it is a ‘just and moral’ war or an act of folly, the men and now the men and women of a nation’s armed forces pay the price and suffer the costs. These are our unsung HEROES. Berthold Brecht used the line ‘Pity the nation that has no heroes.’ to which the sneering rejoinder was ‘Pity the nation that needs heroes…’ Well my friends we all need heroes, to whom we can look up and show respect and use as icons and models for our lives. Heroes I repeat, NOT celebrities; the men and women of our Armed Forces are unsung heroes and those of the Indian Army in the last century fighting this country’s wars were superb. By the end of the First World War 1,500,000 people from the Indian Subcontinent, in what was British India, had served overseas, at a cost of 60,000 dead. Some 9.200 soldiers won decorations, including 11 VCs. In the Second World War the Indian Army grew to two and a half million men, the largest volunteer force the world has ever seen. The two world wars resulted in a loss of 87,000 men from the Indian Sub-continent who died for us; in the horror and turmoil of war acts of great courage and nobility generally go unnoticed – but we must not forget these true unsung heroes. As a daughter of an Indian Army’s soldier and mother of a British Army’s former soldier these facts are not just academic but something with which I have grown up and the Indian Army is a body of men and women of whom I remain immensely proud.
On our National Remembrance Day – we will continue to Remember Them – All Men of All Classes and Creeds.
10th November 2016