Remembering "the Fallen" in Cameroon

A speech by the High Commissioner to Cameroon, Brian Olley

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

H.E Brian Olley

WOs Fisher, aged 42 died on Tuesday earlier this week in Helmand province Afghanistan. He was 42. Blown up by a man who rammed his vehicle which then exploded. He leaves behind two young sons, seven year old James and five year old William, and their mother Emma.

We are gathered here today not just to remember the dead of two world wars- but all those who have died in conflict, and are still dying in conflict. Some have suggested that commemorative services and poppies glorify war. That is to understand why we are here.

Poppies were first suggested as a symbol of Remembrance in 1918 immediately following the end of the First World War. They were adopted by the American League in 1920 and by the British Legion in 1921. Here today we have many countries, and many religions, represented. This is not about nations or religions, it is about remembrance.

In 1921, the first poppy appeal to help the families and soldiers affected by loss or by conflict was launched. The first appeal raised £106,000 which is nearly £30 million in today’s money. Similar amounts are raised every year thanks t he generosity of hose refuse to forget, who are prepared pause and think, who are proud to take part in this act of remembrance.

Why do people wear the poppy? People choose to wear it for different reasons. To quote what I heard yesterday listening to people being interviewed:

One lady said: “I wear my poppy as symbol of thanks to those Service men and women for the ultimate sacrifice they have made for their countries and communities.

Another said: “I wear my poppy with pride as a symbol of remembrance. This symbol has become ever more poignant following the death of my identical twin who was a lance corporal who died in Iraq in 2008”. The man went on to say “the Legion have helped us by supporting our family through tough times over the past 5 years”.

A third person I listened to was a chef who has never served in military. He said “there shouldn’t be anyone not humble enough to show respect to all those who have fought and fallen for us”.

For whatever reason we choose to wear a poppy just once a year, we should take time out for our busy lives, to pause, in quiet contemplation, and thank those have given so much. And to thank their families who have lost so much. For them the pain goes on. It is just a once a year event. It goes on.

Finally to return to Warrant Officer Fisher who died on Tuesday. He was the latest of 11 soldiers who have died from the British Army so far this year. There are many many more from other nations. Regrettably this is something that is not just in the history books. This is today, now and relevant to all of us, young and old. We shall remember them.

Published 11 November 2013