Lest We Forget

efpwreath

Ninety-two years ago, on November 11th 1918, the guns fell silent in what contemporaries hoped would be “the war to end all wars”.

Yet Europeans were to engage in another self-destructive holocaust only twenty years later, and even today our leaders commit British troops to conflicts on the other side of the globe which bear no relation to our national interest.

Some have accused today’s British Legion of allowing themselves to be used by the Brown and Cameron governments in pro-war propaganda exercises. Yet in the 1930s this organisation – formed to represent the interests of ex-servicemen and their families – had a very different stance.

Documents show that the British Legion bravely (but vainly) endeavoured to campaign against war, with a delegation travelling to Germany to meet with leading national socialists including Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess and Hermann Göring. During the last few weeks press reports (including this one in the Daily Mail) and a television documentary have tried to build this up as a scandalous new revelation, though in fact it was first reported in a history of the Legion published in 2001.

In the spring of 1935 the Prince of Wales, patron of the British Legion and himself a veteran of the 1914-18 War, told its annual conference:
“I feel that there could be no more suitable body or organisation of men to stretch forth the hand of friendship to the Germans than we ex-servicemen who fought them in the Great War and have now forgotten about all that.”

British Legion delegates meeting National Socialist leaders

British Legion delegates meeting National Socialist leaders

Legion chairman Maj. Francis Featherston-Godley concurred, telling his comrades:

“Hitherto, you have had the old communication of diplomatic channels hedged in by restrictions.
“We applied the ordinary common sense by which we run the Legion, and can now go to the other fellow over a glass of beer and tell him what we think without fear of the consequences. He can do the same with us.”

British Legion delegates with Hermann Göring

British Legion delegates with Hermann Göring

Tragically this common sense was overtaken by events – and common sense seems in equally short supply in 2010, with British forces having been despatched to an illegal war in Iraq and an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, neither of which were fought in defence of this country’s interests.

As we remember the sacrifice of generations of servicemen and their families, let us also resolve never again to allow such a hijacking of our armed forces whose role is to defend this country and its interests, not to be the pawns of international intrigue.

remembr-wreath

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