June 7, 2011
Remembrance Sunday, every November, has never been high on my agenda for positive action, although my late father served in the Royal Engineers for six years, this all happened before I was born and AJEX, the Jewish ex-servicemen association seemed to be made up people distanced from me.
In other words it all went clean over my head until last November when it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to march from the Hale Village library near Altrincham, Cheshire, to the cenotaph on Hale Road, about half a mile away.
I polished my shoes, donned my suit, resplendent with poppy, and went over not knowing what to expect. On arrival I was met by large contingent of Jewish veterans many of whom I knew and all of whom were substantially older than me.
‘Don’t you have any medals’ they asked ‘well’, I retorted ‘I, eh, do have the hundred metres backstroke’. Sadly my humour was lost on these guys.
We set off marching behind our banner and a military bag pipe and drum band and I felt very self conscious. I could hear my late dad’s voice yelling in my ear asking what the hell was I doing there.
One man marching behind me, who had obviously been a sergeant major in another life, was giving me instructions about keeping in step and distancing myself from the people in front and to my sides.
There was a snake of people behind us and eventually we arrived at the same cenotaph that I pass most days during my early morning exercise walk but pay it little attention.
The Mayor and Mayoress, our Member of Parliament, senior Police officers and military personnel plus numerous local dignitaries, and about two hundred people were there when we arrived and there then followed a most dignified multi cultural remembrance service with participation from the clergy and lay clergy of all the main religions including a Rabbi and a senior member of the local Muslim community.
After the wreath laying we reassembled and marched back to the library for tea. This was the most moving event that I have attended so far as a senior member of the Manchester Jewish Community as it was multi faith and extremely dignified.
Next year I will be there again and even when I have served my terms of office I will continue to attend this annual event as our soldiers continue to lay down there lives in far off hostile countries and we must never fail to recognise the wonderful job that they do for all of us nor must we ever forget those that have gone before and we must continue to respect their memory.
Very sadly not all of the veterans will be with us next year but they will be able to rest knowing that our small gathering will continue with the wonderful ceremony in which they participated.
This Sunday AJEX will parade at the Heathlands Village in Prestwich, Manchester and we must support their continued work and remember how they fought for the freedom and life that we are gifted to enjoy today.