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White Poppy by John Boulton

John Boulton
Let’s begin by clearing up the common misapprehension that the WP (White Poppy) is a sign of disrespect or two fingers up to our fallen soldiers; it isn’t. The best way to do that would be to wear no poppy at all but be your poppy Red or White, to wear it IS in itself an act of remembrance. However, the difference is that the WP, a very much ‘considered’ choice, also takes into account the appalling number of civilians (up to around 240,000 British alone in two world wars) killed and promptly forgotten. Something like 100 million people have been killed in conflict over the last century and among these mind-blowing figures, the mantra that was once, ‘Never Again’ has sadly been drowned out amongst the shameful drum roll that is the virulent and increasing ‘ramping-up’ of militarism.
White Poppy wearers desire to remember, and ‘respect,’ just as those who choose to wear Red poppies do. But we also refuse to be intimidated in our freedom of choice, ‘not’ to be sucked in to the establishment’s shameful hijacking of the once simple and dignified poppy (as opposed to the gaudy, diamond encrusted, mine’s bigger than yours, as currently displayed by ‘celebrities’ and those ‘in the dock,’ mentioning no names) and act of remembrance. Along with our Military too, all these things have, and currently are, used as mere ‘tools’ by successive Governments, not please note the masses who generally wear theirs with integrity, to advance their own murky agendas and constant lust for ‘filthy lucre.’ We in WP’s simply hope for a world in which, when it comes to resolving our differences, killing is not always the first and only option.
Though these views are my own, I speak to you as an Afghan Veteran (2007-2008) and member of an organisation called Veterans for Peace UK. In a recent article by Katie Hopkins in The Sun she savaged the ‘Conscientious Objectors’ and casually wrote them off as ‘cowards.’ That generalisation did a massive dis-service to the countless thousands who had enough humanity in them that they ‘didn’t have it in them’ to kill their fellow man and were brave enough to answer to their consciences and swim against, and at great cost to them, what must’ve been a truly terrific tide.
In our organisation, we have such people who have been brave enough to refuse to take part in what they’ve considered to be something immoral; the process of our involvement in ‘extraordinary rendition’  and to deploy to Afghanistan on the back of contributory factors in their decision making such as the callous annihilation of civilians in Iraq (see Wiki-leaks and ‘Collateral Murder’ film). I’m proud to stand beside these men whose conflicts range from World War Two to Afghanistan. Our oldest member served as a ‘fifteen year old’ Merchant Seaman on D-Day and members range from ex-Royal Navy Sailors and Marines to ex-Army Special Forces personnel.
Not all of our members choose to wear the White Poppy. It’s their ‘choice.’ I however do; not because I wish to disrespect my two Great-Grandfathers who fought in the First World War or both of my Grandfathers who fought in the Second. Nor my Uncle who survived Korea and Kenya or indeed the memory of my dear friend, the late Corporal, James Dunsby, who sadly died this year on that Welsh mountainside with his friends and whom i served with in Afghanistan, a nicer person one couldn’t have hoped to meet. Come the hour, I shall remember them all. But I shall also hope for a better future for humanity as a whole.
I’m no great authority on conflict by any means serving only one tour as a reservist in Afghanistan after a number of years as a regular soldier in the early nineties but I saw enough on that tour to realise the futility of it all; the insane waste of human life to such little end and the massive waste of money and resources, particularly in terms of ordnance, that would be much better employed at home or on humanitarian projects. Rather than ‘re-construction,’ I only ever saw ‘de-construction’ as what little infra-structure was there was often blown away. The Opium trade I believe is thriving, bumper crops year after year, but then why wouldn’t it be when the country is run by thieves and gangsters under Karzai? Oh yes; I at least saw that much.
Upon their return, our troops are paraded around as heroes by those who seek to gain from them but the sad truth is, despite so many suffering from mental and physical trauma, just as they come to terms with being at home, many made redundant by the constant waves of cuts, these ‘heroes’ are held in such high esteem that they’re given the minimum payout’s that the government can get away with and then forced into another fight to try to increase these paltry awards! Not to worry though because charity is on hand to do the governments job for it and The Royal British Legion won’t go short of a bob or two with the likes of BAE System’s stepping into the breech (conflict of interest in securing peace right there!). Remembering the dead is fine, but please, let’s also remember the living.
Due to the way that our poppy has been taken over, some of us find it impossible to separate this once, and in many ways, still fine emblem of remembrance from the corruptions that I’ve alluded too above. In closing I’ll say this; sadly even I can’t claim to be a pacifist. If someone wishes to invade our shores, I’ll gladly slap on my ‘greens’ again but we must always be mindful of how these situations arise in the first place. In the last war, Nazi Germany would not have been quite so mobile had a certain large motor company not intervened to build the Wermacht’s vehicles; go look it up, the list of those who financed the German war machine is long and some of the names will surprise you.
John Boulton served in The British Army from 1990 to 1995. He deployed to Afghanistan as a Reservist in 2008.
  • David Marchesi 15/11/2013, 19:22

    It is significant that the huge propaganda machine of the media from the “Sun” to , I imagine, The Third Programme of “Auntie” chooses to ignore the most horrible aspect of all wars: the killing of fellow human beings who are designated as enemies by the Great and Good ( on all sides, of course – but “ours” are no better than “theirs”) Few frontline, “hand-to-hand” servicepeople enjoy/enjoyed killing, say, bayonnetting, the man they are/were told to destroy. Those few who do/did actually enjoy it at the time must have found, in some cases, that the memory became a nightmare.(read the story of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated US soldier in history) Those who decide/d on the basis of enjoyment to pursue a career of uniformed killing to order must constitute a tiny minority ,so that one can reasonably argue that they ( that is, “our boys” as well as the S.S., the kamikazes etc) are/were brainwashed out of their humanity.
    It is important to pick up the WW! experience, when millions of ordinary men who had never entertained the slightest homicidal thought were dragooned BY ALL SIDES to consider killing The Other a sacred duty.
    I do not think more than a handful ever accepted the propaganda lies and half-truths that encouraged them to kill,kill,kill.
    Yet, largely because we have nearly all refused to challenge the current overwhelming propaganda of the Great and Good , the Royal British Legion, increasingly under the sway of marketing men who, of course, have rarely had any war experience of the “hand-to-hand” kind, contributes to the surge in militarism which has disgraced discourse in this country as the years go by.
    Nobody can doubt that the Red Poppy has been and is being exploited as a symbol of rampant militarism, the sort of hysteria that Owen and others saw in the German approach ( not all would agree that the “Prussians” were the only or even the worst of militarists at the time)
    It is, in the end, not giving two fingers to our troops not to wear a poppy, and, while I am prepared to wear a white one, I have decided that I shall never again (!) buy a Royal etc. poppy. All in all, a minute’s silence, with or without White Poppy is the most fitting tribute to ALL victims of war, from Iraqi kids and Afghani women to British heroes, not forgetting our brave allies flying drones…
    Let’s just have a minute’s silence, then,and use it to try to imagine the horror of bodies blown apart ., men dying in trenches of mud, eaten by rats, men gassed to spend lives in lingering death and , perhaps worst of all, babies incinerated by atomic and other bombs .Overwhelmingly “their” babies” ,of course, and we are told, sadly “collateral damage”. Men ought all to conscientiously object to wars of aggression in faraway lands. Some of us remember when the MOD was more honestly called the Ministry of War. A few of us are English, Republican and not fond of “legions” …
    My admiration, again, for John Boulton and his comrades. NEVER AGAIN!!!

  • Glenn Fitzpatrick 15/11/2013, 19:47

    To speak from the heart is always be best way, John I could not put it better myself. I can only say thank you for being a good man.

  • Kenny Williams 15/11/2013, 22:58

    twelve years in the infantry, three years solid tour in Northern Ireland, and Bosnia. late eighties onward.
    Been their seen it.
    I`ve been going to the same rememberance ritual for fifteen years. When I started going with my wife and young kids you were lucky if their was 40 50 people their, excluding the local dignatories and free masons.
    As the years went by more and more people have been turning out, so now almost three hundred people stand and pay their respects.

    Two years ago i began a journey to seek the truth about how this and many other shadow governments operate. On this journey thus far, I have finally woken up and have seen how the people have been manipulated and lied to in the name of peace. Lets just say I`ve researched many subjects and I`m pissed off !! I`ve broke free of this matrix,
    Just after the two minutes silence this year, I walked up to the memorial in front of everyone and threw my medals onto it. I shouted to the crowd “Please wake up, worship peace not war” “stop following these people to war killing innocent people in the name of oil,drugs and world control, enough bloodshed”

    I was arrested for breach of the peace……. for promoting peace!!! this country has lost the plot.

    Things are going to get very nasty over the next few years, they have their agenda to follow. Young soldiers getting killed over a LIE
    STAND UP AND BE HEARD NO MORE WAR

    White poppy i`m on it peace and love brothers and sisters

  • Graham Horne 16/11/2013, 13:57

    I myself have opted to wear a white poppy. I do this because I wish to respect all members of the working class from all nations and none and regardless of race, gender, sexual persuasion, or creed who have been butchered to maintain the privilege of hierarchy and elitism that so blights social justice and progress around the world.

    In most cases there is a wage earner both ends of the rifle with more in common than divides them.

    How does this reasoning sit with VFP?

  • Ann-Marie Leonard 16/11/2013, 16:23

    http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/

    The Co-operative Women’s Guild wore and sold white poppies 80 years ago. As a CWG branch secretary I was present this year when we laid our white poppy wreath at the war memorial in Felixstowe during our national congress marking our 130th year.

  • j hinman 22/11/2013, 23:18

    I agree with what said above and have admiration for the courage shown by the veterans for peace. War is an abomination. John Boulton mentions the civilians killed by war, but with them also please remember the animals who are forgotten victims of conflict. Still today they are used by the military where it is too dangerous for humans or inappropriate for technical equipment. Dolphins are trained to find bombs on the sea bed, dogs are parachuted into areas with cameras strapped to them. The animals used in the world war and other wars and given animal VCs were not heroes. They were forced to do what they did. What animal, apart from humans, is suicidal? Chemical, biological and explosive weapons are tested on all types of animals to study the effects on living beings. Porton Down uses thousands per year in warfare experiments. When civilians flee and towns destroyed, animals are left to starve or die of their wounds. Animals locked in zoos or farms cannot even get out to forage for food or water. I understand that an organisation called NOWZAD formed by solidiers in Afghanastan, helps some of these animals. So I wear a purple poppy which is in remembrance of these animals, in the same way i wear a white poppy for peace and remembrance of civilians and soldiers who have also suffered and died in a situation which they did not bring about or want and in which there are only losers.