HUNDREDS of people turned out to pay their respects to the fallen at Basingstoke’s War Memorial last Sunday.
The event featured contributions from various people, including the Bishop of Basingstoke, The Right Reverend Peter Hancock, and pupils from two local schools. Wreaths were laid on behalf of various organisations.
Below, you can read the full text of Cllr Biermann’s address at the Remembrance event, and he also explains why he made changes to the traditional ceremony.
Martin Biermann writes: In looking at this year's Civic Remembrance Service I was eager to see it being as inclusive as possible.
To this end I invited not only my Spiritual Mentor, but also a representative of our Nepalese community and other ethnic groups to say a few words. I was delighted that a person from the Basingstoke Multicultural Forum was prepared to participate.
Equally welcome was that an invitation to a primary school and a secondary school were taken up and executed with such spirit. To cap it all, the Bishop of Basingstoke was pleased to join in.
My own contribution can be seen below. I wished to recognise the sacrifices made by so many, express my horror – as have many others – over the level of past slaughter, and highlight, what I believe, are important considerations for mankind.
Remembrance Sunday speech: “We come together in a very important act of remembrance.
We have already referred the dedication and bravery displayed by our armed forces. Many gallant men and women have made great sacrifices to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. Some war veterans amongst us here today have had the horrific experience of witnessing the death or serious injury of comrades. Many have themselves been injured. Probably all have suffered the emotional damage of such experiences. Others here with us will have faced the trauma of losing loved ones in conflict.
Let me add my deepest sympathy for all the suffering you have endured.
In looking ahead, I should like to widen our thoughts to the many people who are showing commitment and self-sacrifice in the numerous ongoing areas of conflict throughout the world. Apart from the armed forces, I would draw attention particularly to the heroism displayed by so many volunteers working to bring medical services and other life-saving support to both combatants and those described as "collateral damage". The supreme heroism of such individuals rarely receives publicity, and much less, ongoing recognition. I would even include journalists, (such as Marie Colvin), without whose presence in conflict zones we would most likely have a very incomplete picture of local situations and a much less complete recorded history.
Armistice Day, when first conceived, was all about remembering the fallen, and also pledging "never again". Sadly, nations continue to compete in arms sales, often to unstable or suspect regimes. We also engage in dubious conflicts deemed by many learnéd people to be illegal, such as in Iraq. And when we engage in more justifiable conflicts we sadly sometimes lose our moral compass.
I have sat amongst some of the remaining ruins in Hiroshima. I cried. The nearby museum contained the United Nations Treaty where we pledged to abolish our nuclear arsenals. We still have a long way to go! And in terms of smaller scale – but on a personal level equally devastating – weapons I point to my wife, the Mayoress, and her escape from the illegal bombing of Cambodia. This bombing was not only massive in conventional terms but also included such horrors as napalm, Agent Orange, cluster bombs and contaminants to poison rivers. Yes, that was now some time back, but we continue to develop some truly awful weaponry.
We are all here together with what may be an impossible dream; that of seeing an end to war. Let us all remember the heroism of so many who have sought to protect and improve our lifestyles. I hope we can each make our own small contribution to reducing slaughter and destruction in the years ahead.
I should just like to finish with a quotation. Harry Patch (the longest surviving and much decorated First World War veteran who died now over three years ago) said: “If any man tells you he went into the front line and wasn't scared, he is a liar”.
Harry knew what he was talking about and whilst he did not say much about the war until he was over 100 years old, if you can find time to read about his life and thoughts it is very worthwhile.
I invite you to join me in the Act of Commitment.”