We take Remembrance Sunday very seriously in Greenford and never more so than this year when the eleventh day of the eleventh month actually fell on a Sunday and, in addition, we commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the Great War.
Anyone who ever doubted the ability of Ealing North people to show respect and to publicly express their sorrow at the sadness of the slain as well as the strength of a united community would have such doubts swiftly laid to rest by observing the Solemn Act of Remembrance, the Last Post and the Exhortation and Kohima Prayer performed with impressing dignity by young, and not so young, alike.
Indeed the parade was larger than ever this year with Scouts, Guides, Cadets, The Royal Naval Association and Greenford’s own branch of the Royal British Legion marching proudly with veterans and current servicemen and women.
If two emotions prevailed on the day then surely they were a pride in the patriotism and courage of those who answered the call shaded with a terrible sadness at the futility of it all and a determination to avoid such slaughter again.
One of the reasons why I am such a believer in a united Europe is the fact that I represent the first generation of my family not to have been involved in war.
My father, after losing his berth in the battleship “Queen Elizabeth” when she was unsportingly sunk by Italian miniature submarines in Alexandria harbour, served as a Coxswain in Motor Torpedo Boats during the hostilities and my grandfather, Reginald Pound, served as an infantryman in the Royal Sussex Regiment during the First World War. In 1965 he published his book “The Lost Generation “ which both told me all that I needed to know about the war in the trenches from the perspective of the lions led by donkeys but also lit in me a fire of determination that we Europeans should never again fight each other to the death.
I’m not suggesting that if we turn away from our fellow Europeans in March next year then we shall at once descend into fratricidal warfare but we will be losing a closeness and co-operation that buttresses the longest sustained period of European peace in our history.
I remember one of my economics lecturers at LSE saying that if goods and services couldn’t cross borders then armies would. Trading together lays the foundations of peaceful co-operation and those who believe that exiling ourselves from a customs union or free trade area will increase amity between the nations should really study the subject with rather more attention to detail.
I haven’t even started on the conundrum of the British border on the island of Ireland. If anyone can come up with an answer to that which does not involve a customs union they will have booked themselves a Nobel Prize.
These were some of the thoughts that went through my mind on that cold, crisp and sunny morning as we gathered at the Greenford War Memorial at the eleventh hour on Remembrance Sunday.
Despite my foreboding and fears nothing could detract from the immense pride that I felt as I say Greenford united in remembrance and respect and a new generation coming forward to take their places in the parade.
Congratulations as ever to the RBL and I hope that some of those visiting the Legion for the first time enjoyed the experience and will come again.
Someone said to me “As this is the 100th anniversary will the parades end now?”
I should say not. As long as there are Greenford people there will be an Act of Remembrance and as long as the emotions of decency, reverence and respect inform the actions of our people then Greenford will gather with bowed heads at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
We will remember them.