Radnor House Remembrance Service 2017
10th Nov 2017
David Paton delivered the following speech at our Remembrance Service this morning.
I wanted to thank you all for braving the weather this morning, fortunately its dry but this act of outdoor remembrance is an important part of the service today.
I am grateful to the parents and other members of the school community who have taken the trouble to attend and I do hope you value this opportunity to come together on an annual basis.
We gather today in remembrance of those who risked their lives to save ours. We gather today to reflect on the futile nature of warfare. But above all we gather today as adults influencing the children standing in front of us and urging them to consider deeply the impact of war on communities and families throughout the United Kingdom.
World War I was the war to end all wars. It was fought between super powers and eventually involved vast chunks of the world’s population. Battles were conducted throughout Europe, although it didn’t take long for the war to develop into a deeply entrenched strategic game with both sides hunkered down, either side of the Western Front, for a long drawn out campaign.
Like many wars we stumbled into it. The events leading to the ultimate culmination of warfare were like a black comedy being played out against the endless plains of northern France.
Much of the country assumed this would be a quick, fast war with Christmas given as the long-stop date in 1914. However, as with most wars we underestimated the ferocity or the all-consuming nature of warfare itself.
Back in the summer of 1914, before a single shot had been fired, we had already analysed and reasoned our way to victory. We had glorified our own capabilities, misjudged the logistical challenge and cost of waging a war on the continent and underestimated the enemy’s resolve. We did not fully consider the human consequences of war, with both sides fighting for their lives, willing to do literally anything to live another day.
This story of warfare has been repeated sadly too often in this country over the past 100 years. We’ve fought necessary and brave wars, we’ve fought irrelevant and silly wars and more recently we’ve found ourselves being swayed by those around us, to engage in wars we may not agree with.
Sadly war seems to be a necessary condition of human existence. We are passionate self-interested beings with significant failings, we have beliefs and principles and need to defend ourselves if threatened.
The military plays a very important role in this and our support for those brave service men and women is unwavering. Britain is a strong and proud nation and should have the military capability to defend itself.
Before I finish I wanted to stress that it is important we do hear the overly simple message that all war is bad, rather that all loss is to be regretted, and that we should not enter into conflict lightly.
We have a duty towards the young men and women who risk their lives that, if they do pay the ultimate price, their sacrifice was not in vain.