THE 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s funeral yesterday has set the seal on a week of solemn commemorations made more poignant for their being the last of their kind.
From the memorial services in London honouring Britain’s Second World War leader to the gathering of survivors at the Auschwitz death camp, a reminder of that war’s darkest times, tribute was paid in a manner that will never happen again.
By the time the next major anniversary of Churchill’s death comes around, almost all those who played any part in the funeral ceremony that brought the nation to a halt on that January day half-a-century ago will have passed into history themselves.
Within a few years, the generation that fought in the war will have slipped away just as their First World War predecessors have already done, taking with them their memories of how Churchill led and inspired Britain to such a hard-won victory. And surely, when the time comes to mark the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the gathering will take place without any survivors being able to offer their terrible testimony.
And in a further reminder of time’s passing, this week saw another long wartime association came to an end in a working men’s club in Dewsbury as the last meeting took place of Yorkshire veterans of the Arctic convoys, the men who braved hellish conditions to keep Britain’s Russian allies supplied at a time when the war seemed all but unwinnable.
That victory finally came about was due to the courage and perseverance of such men, and also to Winston Churchill, the leader who embodied and inspired these qualities. The wartime generation will pass, but the freedoms of all future generations will always be traced directly back to Churchill and his belief that, even in the face of the most terrible evil, surrender was never an option.
Naming the dead: Disappeared but not forgotten
THEY ARE the nameless dead, those men and women whose bodies have been uncovered in undergrowth, or washed up on beaches, with little to help identify them and, apparently, no friends or family who have come looking for them.
Yet this unfortunate few have never been forgotten, even – in some cases – after four decades.
The Missing Persons Bureau, the national organisation that helps police forces to search for those who have disappeared, has published the details of all unidentified bodies on its website in the hope that someone, somewhere, will be able to provide a name and that a statistic will be transformed into a person.
Indeed, even in the oldest and most mysterious of these cases, hope is perhaps higher now than it has ever been that light can finally be shed on these people and their grim fates thanks to the remorseless advance of forensic science.
It was earlier this year, for example, that a man found drowned off Scarborough in 1989 was finally identified by North Yorkshire Police after his daughter saw an appeal on the Bureau’s website and DNA tests provided the evidence that was needed.
Amid all the demands that today’s police forces are facing, the investigation of decades-old cases may seem like an extravagance, a waste of resources that cannot be justified. But the passage of time cannot alter the fact that each of these cases is a human tragedy at least and at worst an unsolved crime.
If a relative’s worries can be resolved, or a murderer brought to justice, even after many years, it is worth doing. The Bureau’s work should be applauded and, like the dead on whose behalf it works, never forgotten.
Back to basics: Morrisons mounts a comeback
AFTER YEARS of well-documented struggles, could the future once again be bright for Morrisons?
The supermarket firm, one of Yorkshire’s truly great business success stories, grew from a Bradford market stall to become one of Britain’s leading food retailers under the visionary leadership of Sir Ken Morrison, but lately it has suffered profit warnings and difficulties as it struggled to compete with newer and frequently cheaper competitors such as Lidl and Aldi.
Now the company’s new chairman, Andrew Higginson has promised a new start, including a return to the basic Morrisons values which brought such success in the past.
In this, we wish Mr Higginson well. There are few greater examples than Morrisons of the traditional Yorkshire values of sound money and hard work and the nation’s retail sector needs this company returned to its very best.