- Published: Monday, 13 November 2017 18:11
The weather for this year's Remembrance Day service was fine and dry, although quite cold. The service went off without a hitch, the Church and Gallery were crowded, and many attendees voted it the best Remembrance Day service that they had attended.
This is Canon Ray Hubble's sermon.
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY BEAULIEU 2017
It is only because of a need to defend our freedom and the freedom of others in peace and from the terror that others might inflict on us, that this nation has seen fit to engage in two world wars and many minor wars since when all too many men and women in the forces of the Crown as well as civilians have been required to suffer severe privation, injury and even death. In fact despite the unspeakable carnage of the First World War it was the war of 1939-45 which has been described as the deadliest conflict the world had ever seen.
Since 1921Remembrance Sunday has caused us to recall the suffering that has accompanied the conflicts in which this nation has been engaged and it has permitted a kind of nostalgia and not a little pride at the heroism of those we are proud to call comrades. That was poignantly brought home to me when I spent a day with an old monk in a Monastery on the way to Katowice in Poland. He had been a novice monk at the same time as the now famous monk Maximillian Kolbe who literally offered himself as a substitute for a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz about to be shot by prison guards as a reprisal for some paltry misdemeanor. As I later stood by the wall in Auschwitz where he stood and gave his life I was haunted by the words “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for others”.
I have been privileged to conduct services of Remembrance such as this in Tobruk in Libya and Kranji in Singapore as well as visits to that most notable military cemetery, El Alamein in Egypt. Also a service of Remembrance in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands in the lee of Mount Tumbledown and a few years ago a Service of Remembrance for the Sailors of the Merchant Navy marking the sinking of the SS ATHENIA by Submarine U30 on the first day of the War and carrying 1,103 civilians, including Women and Children bound for Canada. Indeed throughout the Battle of the Atlantic some 8,000 Allied personnel as well as 30,000 from the Merchant Navy and almost 6,000 from coastal Command of the Royal Air Force lost their lives. It was my privilege to conduct a most moving service just off the D Day beaches in Normandy in commemoration of the greatest invasion in history with huge loss of life.
So, of course, we must Remember.
It was G.K. Chesterton who said:
'The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or a high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live, and the age in which they are living'
I know you won’t be fooled into thinking that things will inevitably get better, that people will automatically strive for peace and all that is good. Every generation has to learn afresh and remembering the past is an essential guide to those who will follow. So we do remember those men and women young and old, giants in character and courage who risked their all and in many cases gave their all, that we might live in freedom. We remember those others, whose lives ever since have been a sacrifice; Wives, fiancées, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of those serving personnel. But the victory they achieved, by their sacrifice, was not like the Victory in that other attempted invasion of England (the Spanish Amada) several hundred years ago – a victory won only for this nation – What we remember is Victory for the values of the human spirit for which the entire free world stands.
I know WinstonChurchill was referring to the Battle of Britain, when he coined those immortal words, Unwearied in their mortal danger, they turned the tide of the World War by their prowess and their devotion' but they could just as easily have been said of the countless men and women of all three armed services:
It was all that and more. In their courage and devotion to duty they showed the very spirit of selflesness which is so much at a premium today. As well as the chivalry and magnanimity shown towards the enemy they earned not only the admiration of their fellows and the respect of their adversaries, but they set a standard and established a precedent for every generation since.
But, those of us who have served in the forces of the Crown would be the very first to acknowledge that war is a tragically imperfect instrument in the pursuit of good and justifiable ends. The parades in our streets, the Ceremony at the Cenotaph in London and the services in the Churches of our nation would have about them an unwholesome quality if they were seen to be just displays of victory and patriotism.
War has no victors; everyone involved is diminished by it.
Yet in the face of evil forces that disfigure and distort those values that make for human happiness and fulfillment: forces of terror that would imprison the human spirit and which threaten to disrupt and destroy what is true and noble, it is just this that prompts a response from our conscience and confirms a deep belief that evil must be overcome by goodness. Despite Winston Churchill’s promise of Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears we can hope that such remembrances as this not only honour our dead (who paid such a great price for the freedom we enjoy) but also provides a call to men and women everywhere in our society to acknowledge the cost of freedom which those in the past, and even today are engaged in combat with destructive forces.
So, are we to learn anything from our Act of Remembrance? One thing is for sure. We must never fail to honour those whose ultimate sacrifice has made possible our freedoms and maintained those standards so precious to our understanding of all that is truly good in life.
In the defence of those freedoms so hardly won. Militant fundamentalism in any political system or for that matter, in any religious system that seeks by dogmatic and uncompromising ways to impress its views and opinions on peoples and nations regardless of the human suffering it produces must never be allowed to advance unchecked. That kind of uncompromising power will only get stronger and become even more arrogant and despotic by our impotence to resist. It was truly said;
'For evil to survive it only requires good men to do nothing'
It is our Faith in a good, tolerant and loving God that has over very many centuries generated in our nation a regard for the highest standards of morality and respect for all men. If that has been slowly eroded in Modern Britain we may be left with what some see as a moral decline. If that lays our communities open to danger we should not lose sight of the need in our society for a renewed commitment to a Faith and a culture of faith which is worth defending in our time.
And as we give thanks for the peace we enjoy and hold dear, we honour those whose sacrifice made it possible. We remember them with gratitude not forgetting that it is because of our belief in a God who made us all and whose love and care extends to every individual soul, that we will remember them.