Last week Private Matthew Thornton of 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment became the 385th British fatality in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001. How easy it is for commentators to reduce his death to mere numbers, how easily he will become another name, joining a long list. These are harsh, insensitive words, but I make no apology for them.

I have become used to hearing about the deaths of British soldiers on the news. A brief moment of remorse is followed by a greater interest in whatever mindless celebrity story has broken that day too, the soldier’s name banished quickly to the back of my mind.

…Private Thornton will never be forgotten…

Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday give people like me the opportunity to pay my respects to those that have died in the service of their country. The Afghanistan conflict has been going for over ten years now, for the British public, life must go on. And while Private Thornton will never be forgotten by his family and friends, let us hope that his sacrifice and that of all the servicemen and women who have given their lives in the service of their country will be remembered every year on11November.

It is days like this that give me faith in a country rocked by corrupt politicians and immoral bankers, gang violence and financial crises. Regardless of personal views on individual conflicts, that people from all walks of life can come together to share two minutes of silence, paying their respects to the fallen is something that must be cherished and preserved. We must do everything we can to ensure this tradition continues. We must do everything we can, to ensure Private Matthew Thornton is not forgotten.

…the Home Secretary banned the extremist group Muslims Against Crusades…


It is for this reason that it was right that the Home Secretary banned the extremist group Muslims Against Crusades last week, in light of their despicable acts outside the Royal Albert Hall last year. It was also right that 172 members of the EDL were arrested in Whitehall on the outset of disturbance. Armistice commemorations are not political, they are an honest, humbling act of personal respect.

The pathetic issue over whether the Home Nations football team could wear poppies on their shirts is another area where the point of remembering our country’s servicemen and women has been badly misunderstood. The behaviour of FIFA was pathetic, that much is clear. What I objected to primarily was how the issue became not the moronic bureaucracy of football’s governing body, but over the footballers themselves. Who cares if Ashley Cole has a poppy embroidered onto his boots, or if the England squad stop training to observe two minutes silence. Very quickly they have become the story. The focus is on them, not on our nation’s fallen soldiers. That is wrong.

…the challenge the Poppy Appeal faces in maintaing its integrity…

The people of Royal Wootton Bassett were said to have objected to the media frenzy that erupted following their paying of respects to the funeral corteges of repatriated servicemen and women from RAF Lynham. Sensationalizing such an event was seen to cheapen it.

It is exactly the same phenomenon that I fear may behold acts of Remembrance around the 11 November. This year’s Poppy Appeal has been on an unprecedented scale and has become something of a brand. That tactics I observed today at Liverpool Street station from some of those selling poppies bordered on hostile, pressurizing those who walked by. Perhaps this was a one off, but it is a warning of the challenge the Poppy Appeal faces in maintaing its integrity.

To wear a poppy is a personal decision, one based on respect and humility. Respect and humility that will always be due to soldiers like Private Matthew Thornton. Let us remember him.


About The Author

History undergraduate at King's College London. Main interests in diplomacy and international relations but also enjoy writing about home affairs.

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