Today I have watched the televised VE Day celebrations. Those heroic veterans, so humble and yet proud. The Royal Family, so heavily involved in the military themselves, honouring the sacrifice made by so many in name of King and Country.
I watched programme after programme, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Partly, I think my heart struggles to understand the depth of such self-sacrifice. I am so lucky. I have never had to leave my home to fight. I have never lost a loved one in battle. The admiration I have for the communities who have protected my freedom and my nation is beyond words. So very many people, of all ages, classes, religions, belief systems and backgrounds pulling together to protect their democracy, their freedom and their comrades.
I am also lucky to have interviewed a lot of veterans, and heard further more stories from those in my own family. I’m desperately proud of my grandparents and their contribution, indomitable spirit, and selflessness. I’ve heard men and women talk about their times on the home front, or on active service. I’ve heard Land Girls talk about living on beetroot sandwiches when they were half-starved after a day on the farm. I’ve seen proud old men cry with pride and I’ve met limbless ex-servicemen, women who helped efforts to crack the Enigma code at Bletchley Park, nurses, drivers, prisoners of war and evacuees.
Those people make me proud to be British. Many have since campaigned for peace, as they know first-hand the destructive and lasting effects of war. They seem very relieved that they were able to preserve the democracy of my little island nation.
You will have seen that, this week, some British people have marched in protest against the outcome of the recent General Election. Unless something has gone horribly wrong, an election that gave everyone the chance to have their say. Our democratic system may be flawed, but it offers the people their opportunity to contribute to decisions that affect Britain. Also, you will have seen, we have had an addition to our Royal Family – Princess Charlotte. In the past couple of weeks I have been horrified by the vitriol shown on social media in relation to these two events.
I am fully aware that not everyone is a monarchist, and people will never agree about party politics. But I see no reason for hate and spite to become our national norm. I know people who are simply too scared to talk about how they voted, as they are fearful of the hatred and accusations they will face. Some of the things I have read would, I am absolutely sure, horrify those veterans who laid down their lives to protect democracy and a nation of which they were / are so proud and defensive. These are, after all, often the same people who lived through The Great Depression. And as one chap stated in his interview:
We marched in protest. Everyone knew why we were marching. But we did it silently – we weren’t shouting and waving placards. We marched and marched and marched
A very different image to the ones I’ve seen today, where people with their faces covered were taunting police and shaking barricades.
I hope, from the bottom of my grateful heart, that the veterans aren’t ashamed of today’s Britain – the Britain they gave up so much to protect and preserve. As I watched them march past the Royals to “There’ll Always be an England”, another tear ran down my face. This time it wasn’t pride.