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The Cenotaph 2013

© Guy Smallman

© Guy Smallman© Guy Smallman© Guy Smallman© Guy Smallman© Guy Smallman© Guy SmallmanOn Remembrance Sunday 2013, Veterans For Peace UK walked to The Cenotaph under the banner ‘Never Again’. The message on the back of our tops read “War is Organised Murder” which is a quote from Harry Patch, the last survivor of The Western Front who he died in 2009. Among the 18 veterans who attended were men who had served in World War 2SE Asia, Northern Ireland, Dhofar, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. We were followed by around 80 supporters.

The reception from bystanders was mostly positive. As we neared The Cenotaph we were stopped by the police. A negotiation between the police and Ben Griffin ended with the police agreeing to allow the veterans and their bugler approach The Cenotaph. The tension started to build as we waited for The Salvation Arm to finish their ceremony.

As we stood facing The Cenotaph D-Day veteran Jim Radford sang ‘1916’. Afghanistan veteran John Boulton then read ‘Suicide in the Trenches’ by Siegfried Sassoon. A wreath of white & red poppies was then laid by Northern Ireland veteran John Bourton. The Last Post was played, after which there was a minute of silence during which we tried to remember all victims of war.

It was a sombre and moving event which took courage to participate in. 



16 years old when I went to the war,
To fight for a land fit for heroes,
God on my side, and a gun in my hand,
Chasing my days down to zero,
And I marched and I fought and I bled and I died,
And I never did get any older,
But I knew at the time that a year in the line,
Is a long enough life for a soldier,

We all volunteered, and we wrote down our names,
And we added two years to our ages,
Eager for life and ahead of the game,
Ready for history’s pages,
And we brawled and we fought and we whored ’til we stood,
Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder,
A thirst for the Hun, we were food for the gun,
And that’s what you are when you’re soldiers,

I heard my friend cry, and he sank to his knees,
Coughing blood as he screamed for his mother,
And I fell by his side, and that’s how we died,
Clinging like kids to each other,
And I lay in the mud and the guts and the blood,
And I wept as his body grew colder,
And I called for my mother and she never came,
Though it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t to blame,
The day not half over and ten thousand slain,
And now there’s nobody remembers our names,
And that’s how it is for a soldier.

Written in 1990 by Lemmy Kilmister
Suicide in the Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Written in 1918 by Siegfried Sassoon 

All pictures © Guy Smallman

© Guy Smallman

  • Andy 11/11/2013, 17:56

    Well done to all those who attended. Must of took a lot of courage.

  • Lindis Percy 11/11/2013, 18:55

    Thank you so much for being so brave. Having been involved for many, many years I see a change taking place. The fact that you walked with dignity and courage and a vision is the change beginning to take place.
    With very best wishes and please let’s keep in touch.

    Lindis Percy

  • Pounce 11/11/2013, 20:22

    Little confused here, if you laid a wreath of white poppies in which to say enver again, why are you all wearing red ones. I was of the belief that people who marched on Rem Sunday to the cenotaph don’t wear a poppy.

  • Joe 11/11/2013, 23:59

    Well done lads. Sorry I couldn’t be there with you.

  • DaveBrigg 12/11/2013, 00:20

    Perhaps Kipling’s Epitaph on a Dead Statesman would have been more appropriate, given the number of politicians present.

    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?

  • Jerry Genesio 12/11/2013, 02:35

    On September 2, 1989, I laid a wreath a the Cenotaph. I so wish I could have been there with you today.
    Jerry Genesio
    VFP Founder
    Bridgton, Maine, USA

  • Ciaron O'Reilly 12/11/2013, 05:29

    Congratulations. It felt a very moving and significant action to witness.

    The follow up in the pub (closest one to the Cenotaph on Whitehall) with VfP Vets mixing with mainstream veterans returning from official ceremonies and randoms like myself was one of the most amazing times I have had in a pub anywhere in the world. Given how much trauma, PTSD etc was in that room and the potential for misinterpretation form mainstream veterans we all seemed to have a great time and a shared respect.
    (I’ve got dreadlocks down to my butt/ “look straight out of central casting” and yet all the veterans in the pub VfP (wearing “war is organised murder” hoodies) and more pro-government were (wearing chests fill of medals) very polite to me.

  • christie attenborrow 12/11/2013, 08:34

    True bravery and courage. I am moved and heartened by what you did and are doing. Thank You .

  • Trevor Bavage 12/11/2013, 14:45

    Well done! Well done! We should all speak out against glorification of war.

  • Leslie Rowe 12/11/2013, 23:06

    The official cermonies we see at the Cenotaphs today are often just a glorification of the military, so well done to you all for reminding the armchair warriors like Blair that War really is Hell.

  • Norman Scarth 13/11/2013, 09:14

    18+80, trying to open the eyes of the gullible millions.  

    You & your colleagues deserve the greatest praise for your action.  It takes real courage to not only resist the brainwashing to which most of the nation succumbs, but to march so boldly in declaring an unpopular truth.  I regret not being able to join you, being at great risk should I dare to set foot in Britain again. 

    On Remembrance Sunday a few years ago, wearing my white beret & war medals, I was arrested & taken off before the march past Bradford War Memorial, the police thinking (wrongly) I might disrupt it, something I had no intention of doing.   The following year, not being able to stand for long periods, I was sitting on my shopping trolley seat, offering a tray of White Poppies.  Two policemen came & stood beside me.  The older one said, “You have been seen on CCTV: We have been sent to protect you”.  I said, “Are you REALLY saying that people could attack me for offering White Poppies?”  He said this was a possibility.  Had it happened, guess who would have been arrested?  He then told me he was close to retirement, & when that came he intended to get out of Britain. 

    You quote the words of Harry Patch, a wonderful man.  It was deplorable that  his name & his eventual death were used as propaganda.   I recall one young man saying that, inspired by Harry, he had joined the army, thus proving he completely misunderstood Harry: He was not a ‘soldier’, but a conscript, who agreed with comrades that, if forced to fire at Germans, they would shoot only to wound, not to kill. 

    In his later year, when visiting memorials in France, he insisted on honouring the Germans who died as much as his own comrades.  What a pity the Royal British Legion & other Ex-Service organisations do not do the same.

    PLEASE continue spreading the truth.  Hopefully, more & more people will take it up.

    Norman Scarth. 

  • Adrian Walker 13/11/2013, 21:31

    Utterly brilliant.

  • Phil Shelley 25/11/2013, 22:41

    Is there any video of Jim Radford singing 1916?

    Such a moving song, and I believe it tells it as it is (was). We played it once as we drove up to Thiepval a few years ago, I never ‘served’ but boy did I feel a chill down my spine looking at all those gravestones with 1916 playing.