POLITICIANS should be banned from the Cenotaph and veterans from Germany, Argentina, Japan and Italy should be invited to join those in the UK marking Remembrance Day, according to a new book.
Ted Harrison, author of Remembrance Today, is calling for radical changes to Poppy Day for the 21st century, including phasing out the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Harrison, who lives in the Shetland Isles, traces the history of Remembrance in the UK back to the first official two minutes’ silence in 1921. He records that the original memorial services were as much about a call for world peace as they were about a nation uniting in grief over the war dead.
Harrison, a former BBC religious affairs correspondent, writes: “In 1926 the British Legion had been approached with the suggestion that the words imprinted on the central black button at the heart of the red poppy should not be ‘Haig Fund’ but ‘No More War’. To the disappointment of many this idea was not taken up.”
As an artist, Harrison created the installation at St Paul’s Cathedral made from 7,000 poppies as a memorial to child soldiers who die in conflicts. He believes the original meaning of Remembrance has been lost as the symbol of the Poppy has been “hijacked” by organisations which use the image to “glorify militarism and justify armed conflict”.
On the role of politicians, Harrison sees a clear distinction between the presence of the Queen as Head of State representing the people and individual party leaders.
He writes: “There continue to be undignified squabbles over the details of the event, particularly about who should lay wreaths and in what order. If there were no politicians at the Cenotaph, there would be no more opportunity for party political points scoring.
“Much more important, deliberately excluding them from any prominent position would be a reminder to all members of the political class that they are the people whose failures, enthusiasms, delusions and opportunism results in troops being killed.”
Remembrance Today: Poppies, Grief And Heroism by Ted Harrison is out now, Reaktion Books, £20