Ninety-nine years ago today (2 March 1916), every unmarried man aged between 18 and 41 in England, Scotland and Wales was “deemed to have enlisted” in the armed forces. It was only a few months before another act was passed, extending conscription to married men.
Andrew Murrison MP is the government’s special representative on the World War One Centenary Commission. At Exeter University tomorrow (14 November), he will propose the motion “This house believes that World War One was a great British victory.” I have been asked to oppose the motion.
Red, white, purple or any combination thereof. The hue of the poppy we wear should be the choice of an informed conscience. To be coerced into a symbol, for whatever reason and by whatever means, immediately invalidates its significance.
One sign of the impact of militarism is the number of progressively minded people who express a belief in peace but support war once it is proposed. This is rather like being teetotal until you're offered a drink.
Do they expect us to believe it all again? With weary familiarity, I have been reading the government’s claims that we face a heightened “terror threat”. UK governments have been making this claim every so often since 2001. It is usually followed by a fresh restriction of civil liberties or the departure of British troops to yet another war zone.
The ‘common good’ and support for current and former soldiers are among the topics to be discussed at the Church of England’s general synod in July 2014. Savi Hensman suggests that the institutional Church of England in its current form may be too heavily compromised by its closeness to the “principalities and powers” to be fully effective in seeking justice and peace. She argues that it will have to face a death of sorts in order to be renewed in Christ.
The rainstorm of almost tropical ferocity which swept across West Suffolk yesterday afternoon (28 June) was dying down as we assembled for a silent Peace Vigil to mark Armed Forces Day. But the distant thundery grumbles seemed – at the risk of being mocked for the use of Pathetic Fallacy – to be a reminder of the persistence and ubiquity of strife.
Changing times may be best served by less rigidity about symbols, says Jill Segger. As the centenary of World War I approaches, she suggests that the white poppy opens up a space in which remembrance can go hand in hand with repentance for the failure that is war.