Members of the Company of Communicators with military affiliations and backgrounds talk about what Remembrance means for them. Brigadier Jeremy Mooney, a member of the Military Committee, recalls his time on operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan during Remembrance.
Jeremy Mooney: I suppose there have always been two distinct strands within Remembrance: the historical and the contemporary.
Obviously, there is the retrospective aspect, reflecting with gratitude on the sacrifice of those who served and those who fell in the great wars of the last century. As the last of those who fought in the Second World War fade from our view, so I think that the way we commemorate the debt we owe them is becoming less personal, more abstract. The challenge will be to keep it relevant, lest Passchendaele and Normandy become as remote as Trafalgar and Blenheim.
But even as our direct contact with that generation has dwindled, the other side of Remembrance has flourished – the side that sees it as an annual opportunity for society to renew the moral contract with its Armed Forces. Alongside ‘We Will Remember Them’ in recent years the message of Remembrance has increasingly been ‘And We Do Remember You’ - directed at the men and women who currently put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the nation. As well as all of those who, having done that, still suffer today as a consequence.
I have twice had the privilege of experiencing Remembrance on operations with the Army. In Kosovo, in 2001, it still felt like we were looking back to the World Wars. I was helping to run media operations for the UK brigade as a mobilised reservist, and I noticed that one of the few things that united the local Serbs and Albanians was an intense curiosity about the British season of Remembrance. It was the collective act of sorrow and pride that fascinated them, crystalised in the simple symbol of the poppy. Overshadowed by their own history, they thought better of us for seeing how we dealt with our past.
Eight years later I was in Afghanistan, and Remembrance was very much about the here-and-now. During the six months of my deployment, the brigades I served with sustained more than seventy fatal casualties, and many more wounded. In a real sense, Remembrance was a constant state of mind: practically every week in Lashkar Gah we held vigil services for the latest fatalities. We did not feel like a Forgotten Army – far from it, for political and press interest in what we were doing was constant. Nevertheless, on Remembrance Sunday, we watched the ceremonies back in the UK avidly, and felt appreciated.
To those who serve, it matters.