Thinking about this year’s Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance/Armistice Day, I was trying to get to grips with what it means in relation to Caversham.
The war memorial, by the Thames on the riverside on the Caversham bank of the river, near-ish to Caversham Bridge, marks – and lists – the dead in the First and Second World Wars and in Afghanistan. The dead are from both Caversham and Emmer Green. (Perhaps that suggests no-one from Caversham/Emmer Green died in any other wars since then; I don’t know how names get included on a war memorial.)
Obviously enough, Remembrance Days are all about war and, of course, war isn’t a new thing. It seems it has been with us from the word go. I guess its roots lie in competing for scarce resources – competing for whatever it is you need to survive.
But that arguably justified reason for conflict soon became corrupted as humanity developed over the centuries. Yes, the need to survive will always be with us. But as we’ve developed – our cultures, our resources, our knowledge, understanding and so on – so the reasons why we end up at war change. That is to say, the context within which we justify our wars change. As humanity has progressed we can no longer cite survival – we have to come up with other reasons. And predictably, greed, religions and race figure large in any roll call as the most common justifications.
None of that’s surprising. Similarly, it’s not surprising that, ultimately, we have to live together. Whatever the justifications given, all wars end in peace, however uneasy that peace may be. We could cut out the conflict and go straight to working out ways to live with each other. And that’s not surprising either. And so the question then arises, why do we keep fighting? And the answer to that boils down to something similarly unsurprising. We have to fight because of human nature. People decide that something – something financial, religious, race-related or whatever – is worth going to war for. And other people then have to fight back.
Returning to life in Caversham, when it comes to Remembrance Day (or, indeed, any other day), we would all be wise to keep in mind that our current freedoms were bought with the lives of others, sacrificed in wars. We would also be very wise to keep in mind that our freedoms will always need protecting.
There’s a link to the IWM (Imperial War Museums) website, which includes photos of the memorial, here: