History remembered as UK honours its fallen soldiers

ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart's father Jimmy. Photo: ITV News/Alastair Stewart

My RAF father Jimmy survived the Second World War; an uncle, I never knew, didn't. My mother, a Royal navy WREN, also survived it - met my father and, for my brother and me, the rest is history.

It was history that was remembered with such potent dignity today. The BBC's David Dimbleby guided us through the events in Whitehall, around Sir Edwin Lutyens' Cenotaph, with a turn of phrase and dignity few, if any, can match.

War Veterans took part in a Remembrance Sunday parade by the Cenotaph in Westminster, London Credit: Jeff Moore/Empics Entertainment

'It is not the numbers - it is one life, one person who did not return - that matters'. And of an old veteran, struggling with a walking stick - 'They come, against the odds, because it matters'.

It matters to us all.

There was, on social media, a kaleidoscope of views and polemic. Those who demurred from the whole thing were answered by those who said the sacrifice of millions had won them the right to demur.

The left-wing journalist and polemicist Owen Jones tweeted that we should, in the same breath, honour the sacrifice of older generations whilst doing all we can to stop it befalling a future generation. I agreed with him.

He was attacked for tweeting during the 'silence'. He didn't. It was sickening but Jones saw them off with dignity.

Pop-star Pixie Lott, posted a wonderful Poppy motif, to be re-tweeted by so many.

I posted black and white pictures of my late mother and father, as so many others had done. It was done with love and pride and, I fancy, not a little gratitude for their wartime survival and for the sacrifice of so many less fortunate who still occupy so many 'corners' of so many many 'foreign fields'.

ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart's mother. Credit: ITV News/Alastair Stewart

My daughter, a teacher in Aldershot, was movingly mindful of the parents of her charges, many of whom are serving, this very day, in Afghanistan.

I am a proud supporter of the Royal British Legion and in December will host for them a fund-raising Carol Concert at London's Guildhall. I've done it for more than a decade now and I do it with love, respect and gratitude.

Royal British Legion's Poppy. Credit: Chris Ison/PA

The work of the Legion, which so many of us willingly support with the purchase of a Poppy, is remembered today. But the work is literally 24/365 - and, with Afghanistan, it is increasing not fading.

They serve the veterans, the widows and widowers, the children. We owe them a debt of gratitude and are right to support them.

The sacrifice of those who died in the First World War is not diminished by the curious and fool-hardy political and diplomatic indulgences that led to its out-break. Alan Clarke was also right about 'Lions, led by Donkeys'.

Crosses are laid in the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey Credit: Jeff Moore/Empics Entertainment

But there can be no doubt about what was at stake in the Second World War - it was a struggle between the forces of freedom and democracy and those of dark, anti-Semitic fascism.

They died that we might live; they died that we might speak truthfully and freely to one another; they died that we might build a society where a person's faith, race or sexual preference is not held against them.

A stem of green plastic; a black-button; a sprig of green and a red petal - so simple, but meaning so much.

We should remember them, honour them and remain eternally grateful to them.

I will.

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