I went to pay my respects at yesterday’s repatriation in Wootton Bassett. I’ve wanted to go, felt a certain push from within, for a while, and either I haven’t been able to make the time, or have looked for one only to find that it was ‘yesterday’.
I don’t know if yesterday’s was any different from the many others, not having anything to compare it to, but it was a sombre and dignified affair, attended by soldiers – old and new – and civilians alike, marred only by the presence of so many news wagons. I understand that it’s newsworthy, I agree that it must be reported, but by all the networks? There was a lovely ‘up yours, vulture’ moment, when a cameraman, eager for the shot, stepped into the road, and was immediately asked to step back by a policeman. Apparently someone was blocking his shot and wouldn’t move. The policeman said ‘tough’ (or perhaps something a little more diplomatic, if only as sympathetic). The obstructive gentleman in question, as the cameraman increased the height of his tripod, stood on his tiptoes from time to time – much to the cameraman’s annoyance (he actually went to speak to the policeman – again, the policeman was appropriately sympathetic).
Why did I go? I’m not sure. I was in the service, albeit briefly, and I suppose I’ve always felt an affinity for all things military – ever since I was a child growing up on military bases; or perhaps I just wanted to stand up and be counted amongst those that recognise the sacrifice these boys have made. In any case, it just felt like the right thing to do.
I was surprised, oddly, to see how many old soldiers there were (an indication of how many there are), and it was interesting to see the way that the old soldiers mixed with the new – only the age gave away the separation, or perhaps it’s that age is the only separation – with the bonds forged in service comes the adage “once a soldier, always a soldier”. Of course, there was a large contingency of Grenadiers, and to see them, and others with them, snap to attention and salute their fallen comrades brought more than a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. The sharpness with which they did it made me come to attention myself, and it’s been a while. I know I will go again – we should continue to honour the fallen, our war dead.
Yesterday I saw many soldiers, many medals, many salutes, and more than a few tears.