Today I would like to thank the people of Elland. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.
This week I was delighted to accept an invitation from the Royal British Legion to join poppy sellers at their local supermarket to show yet again that people are wearing their poppies with pride. Not only that they queued for the privilege of doing so. And it is a privilege. Young and old, male and female and children, so many children, came to the table to show their support. They gave more than generously. And they knew exactly what they were supporting and why. Faith restored.
Talking of faith a good seller in Elland this year has also been the Muslim Crescent, which is produced alongside the Sikh Khanda the Hundu Om and Star of David. Sacrifice has no religion. They were all brothers ( and now sisters ) in arms.
Last year the poppy appeal raised £50m nationwide. This year at the local branch of the Royal British Legion in and around Elland volunteers sent out 20,000 poppies to schools and local businesses (at their request) which represents more than one poppy per person. More than ever before. Panic over. We haven’t forgotten.
I say that because last week I was appalled at the flakey comments by a group of would be business leaders on The Apprentice which showed their horrifying lack of awareness about our history and the huge debt of gratitude we owe our armed forces. What’s more they didn’t care. Without an ounce of embarrassment not one but an entire group admitted they neither knew when the Second World War began nor how long it lasted. Well shame on them.
If that’s the best on offer then I don’t hold out much hope for our economic future. I would have fired the lot of them.
When Wakefield’s Claire Young was declared runner up in 2008 it was a very different programme. So credible were the contestants then that even though she didn’t win she was offered a job with Karen Brady which she famously turned down. Once dubbed the Rottweiler, Claire is now a successful businesswomen and a champion of equal opportunities in schools. She is intelligent, highly motivated and I guarantee she will know the important dates we commemorate on Poppy Day, which this year also remembers those who have lost their lives through terrorism and the emergency services who respond to acts of war on our shores, irrespective of the dangers they face in doing so.
Well I wouldn’t pay this lot of Apprentices in washers, if they have not enough respect to learn about the sacrifices made on their behalf. What is worse is that displaying their ignorance they cast doubt on whether young people can be bothered to even remember what older generations did for them, that the ‘me me me’ attitude is what prevails. Well it doesn’t. And they do.
As for the ridiculous remarks by another so called “reality” star in the aftermath of their stupidity that learning about the Second World War could have a detrimental effect on young people’s health I would say only this..get real. You represent no one but a handful of people who believe being given 15 minutes of fame entitles you to speak on behalf of a generation who do remember and do want to learn. It also undermines the serious mental health issues suffered by those who have seen the unspeakable in the battlefields of war, from my grandfather who was called to rehabilitate prisoners in Burma but would never talk about his experiences, to those who suffer exposure to human suffering in more modern day conflicts, but who receive help and support from the Royal British Legion year after year.
There are no apprentices on the battlefield. Brother and sisters to this day stand shoulder to shoulder in a common aim, to protect our future. They should be assured that this Sunday and on Armistice Day on Monday we will cease our busy lives and look back and remember those who didn’t come home, those who suffered terrible injuries both physically and mentally and those who to this day fight to protect us from those who would do us harm.
So thankyou Elland. I know your generosity and support is being replicated across the country. Thankyou to all those who serve, to all those who give of their time to the Royal British Legion and all those who queue to support their cause.
You restored my faith in human nature. And the power of the poppy.
I know you will wear it with pride. Lest we forget.