Comment: The National Front wreath at the Cenotaph dishonours all those who fought Hitler


 

Last Sunday I joined thousands of others at the Cenotaph to remember those who had given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today.

As in previous years, there were two moments that particularly struck me: the march past of Second World War veterans and the laying of the wreaths from the Commonwealth High Commissioners. Both reminded me of our nation’s fight against Nazism, the tremendous debt we owe to those who fought Hitler and the hugely overlooked and critical contribution of people from across the British Empire who fought and died for a country many of them had never seen.

National-Front-poppy-wreath-at-Cenotaph-2012With this in mind I looked at the wreaths after the service – wreaths from across the globe – and was aghast to see that amongst them was a wreath from the National Front.

To have a neo-Nazi organisation represented in the memorials at the Cenotaph is an insult to those who laid down their lives in the fight against fascism. It must be removed.

Not only is the wreath at odds with Britain’s struggle in the Second World War, it shows blatant ignorance for the enormous debt we owe to millions across the Commonwealth who fought under our flag.

I have long argued the contribution of the non-White forces in both World Wars has been grossly overlooked. Not only were these huge in number but understanding how many fought and died for Britain would do much to show the country that while the National Front’s and other fascists’ ideological sympathies lie with Hitler, non-White troops from across the world were fighting under the Union Flag against him.

In the Second World War, 2.5 million Indians volunteered to fight for Britain, the largest volunteer army in history. They received 4,000 decorations and 38 Victoria Crosses, losing 36,000 men and leaving 34,000 woundedSeven thousand Caribbean troops and 500,000 Africans fought for us in World War II. We should never forget this.

In the battles of the Great War, 5,000 Nigerians, 2,000 Kenyans, 3,000 Malawians and countless other Africans died for Britain while 2,000 members of the Chinese Labour Corps lie with the British dead in France. The numbers, names and countries go on – countless died for an island so far from home.

If the trenches were Hell for Europeans, imagine the horror, the cold and the suffering of those fighting thousands of miles from their families in an unfamiliar land.

For all the wrongs of Empire, in times of need people from the Caribbean to the Pacific came to Britain’s aid: from 1939 to 1945, 170,000 of them died for Britain’s freedom.

When the first waves of Commonwealth immigration came to the UK, most were from families that in some way or other had helped the British war effort. In light of this, the racism they encountered seems all the more perverse. Their descendants today have every right for their forefathers to be recognised for their valour and sacrifice in service of our country.

How disgusting that the National Front – who advocate repatriation of non-Whites, and maintain links with neo-Nazis who deny the Holocaust – should leave a wreath or organise a day to ‘remember the fallen’ when so many who fell were non-White and Jewish. Their ideological predecessors were interned as traitors while the grandfathers of so many of our Commonwealth cousins and fellow citizens were fighting Hitler.

The wreath laid there is an insult to those of every racial background who died for Great Britain and a disgusting juxtaposition to wreathes that commemorate the millions who made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Hitler.

This country needs to do so much more to highlight the diverse nature of those who helped Britain in its darkest moment. The British Empire didn’t last for a thousand years but without doubt its finest hour was destroying Nazism. History would surely have unfolded very differently without the enormous contribution of the peoples of the Commonwealth. We owe them so much.

It’s time we reflect this in our schools and representations of the World Wars. But the first thing we can do is remove that wreath and others like it. Together we defeated fascism – seeing its remnants on Remembrance Sunday is an insult to those that died, the Commonwealth, and our diverse nation: A nation built upon the sacrifice of millions from across the globe.

When we say ‘We Will Remember Them’ let us ensure we do everything we can to remember all of them.

Update: The Royal British Legion have been in touch to say they had no connection with the National Front laying a wreath. After the official ceremony people and groups are at liberty to place their own wreath – it’s just a pity the National Front took the opportunity to try and hijack such an important occasion

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  • mikems

    Well said.

    They claim to be patriots, but when our country was under its most severe threat they sided with the enemy and had to be imprisoned to prevent treason.
    Should never be forgotten that these ‘patriots’ are traitors in waiting.

  • http://twitter.com/jhallwood James Hallwood

    Thank you – yes, it’s always struck me as odd that these ‘patriots’ would have sided with Hitler in our darkest hour – to this day they sing Nazi songs – meanwhile people of all races died for our freedom and in the fight against fascism.

  • Ivan_Denisovich

    “It MUST be removed”. Really?

    I understand your dislike of what you consider to be a neo-Nazi party and I applaud you for highlighting the contribution made by people of all races and ethnicity. However, Britain’s greatest victory was not the destruction of Nazism but the triumph of liberal tolerance and democracy, not just over Nazism but ultimately over totalitarianism of all kinds in Europe. By attempting to ban a legal entity from performing an act of remembrance can you not see that you are allowing your politics to undermine that victory?

  • Zebura

    Just because the British Government interred hundreds of members of the BUF did not make them all traitors. Many British fascists fought and died for this country in the Second World War, does their sacrifice not count because of their distasteful politics?

  • http://twitter.com/jhallwood James Hallwood

    I thought over the wording of ‘it must be removed’ a lot, believe me. I do think though that some there are limits to which liberal democracy can allow extremism – I’m not anti-platform as I think they tend to show-up what idiots the extremists are – but for something as important as Remembrance Sunday I do think that a line must be drawn.

    The bitter irony that many of the names we remember died fighting Nazism means I find it hard to see how it is right to have a wreath laid by fascists who also deny our freedom and the rights of those others who fought for Britain. I recognise where you’re coming from – and can imagine in general I’d agree with you – but as a national civic event I do think the wreath is inappropriate. It’s a far lighter line than the French etc would take.

    I see NF politics as undermining the victory – even liberal democracies have limits to expression so I feel it is right to withdraw the wreath but appreciate where we draw the line is contentious – and perhaps always should be.

    Walking past there today it looks as if the wreath has already been removed. Given the RBL has responsibility for the ceremony it appears that they have used their own discretion on this. Thanks for the comment though because while I disagree with the conclusion, I largely agree with how you arrive there. I assure you I’m not in the usual ‘ban everything’ brigade!

  • http://twitter.com/jhallwood James Hallwood

    I really question how many committed British fascists fought. Just as now, fascism was not a widespread movement – the onset of war largely killed off the blackshirts. Many may have fallen into the BUF at some point or other but I seriously doubt that by 1939 there were many ardent blackshirts fighting against their idol Hitler – certainly not enough to justify a NF wreath which is there for its own agenda and given their continued singing of Nazi songs, highly inappropriate.

  • Ivan_Denisovich

    Many thanks for the thoughtful response James. I am no fan of the NF. Interesting that you mention France where the NF and the communists have much larger power bases than they do in the UK. I think there are major differences between the French and UK versions of the NF but I do observe that The UK is less inclined towards the political extremes than France and some other EU countries. Perhaps it is because we let them show themselves up.

  • http://twitter.com/jhallwood James Hallwood

    I mentioned France in the context of their strict laws on things like Holocaust denial etc – but I think there may be something in what you say – where we put the level of freedom of speech does seem to let the far right show itself up. I’m proud that extreme politics in this country is very niche – I’d normally thank voting system, but as observed France has a powerful far right but essentially FPtP too – seems like culture might play a part. That’s a whole other article!

  • http://twitter.com/DJWESG Wes G

    And not just those who may have fought, but those who knew of the sentiment toward themselves so integrated back into society and back into the system in order to continue their struggle but with different means?

  • wltywb

    Where was the Left when London’s white communities were being carved up and demolished by mass immigration? The Left despise the white, war-time generation and gleefully rub their hands at their demise. “You belong in the 1950s”, and “Little Englander” are some of their favourite sneers, referring to attitudes attributed to that era.

    The left loves how the older generation is dying out and are having less influence. In the USA they’ve been celebrating the demise of ‘old white men’ in their recent election to make way for non-white government. There’s a similar mood in London and our other cities where the white population is shrinking.

    The truth is that Britain’s war generation would have been disgusted at the effect of mass immigration since 1948. Winston Churchill himself wanted the Tories to adopt a “keep Britain White” slogan in the 1950s, while Enoch Powell enjoyed overwhelming public support in 1968. It’s ironic that you talk of links with ‘anti-semitism’ – Labour has been importing thousands of anti-semites for years and brought in laws to lock-up people who speak against it.

    Our soldiers went to war believing that they were fighting for their children’s freedom and future. Instead they got mass immigration, censorship and the erosion of their rights. We now have ‘Equality’ laws that push white children to the back of the jobs queue, while working class white boys are last in the educational system in schools where they speak fifty different languages.

    How many of our non-white allies in WW2 are still actually alive and living in Britain? It’s 2012 – why must we still keep our doors open to the third world? The Left love to remind is that the Empire is dead and buried and yet they want the borders open as though it’s still going strong. The British fought to liberate many other countries too, but I don’t expect the right to go and live in them seventy years later. Our allies were fighting for their own lives as much as ours – Hitler clearly wanted Britain’s Empire, especially India.

    Stop pretending that you care about old, white men – you despise them as an embarrassing anachronism and can’t wait to see them die off.

  • http://twitter.com/jhallwood James Hallwood

    Old white men – like my grandfathers who both played critical roles in the war effort? They did not share your views – so I suggest you stop telling me what the ‘Left’ think as a whole and what that generation thought as well. My Nan who damaged her lungs making munitions and my grandma who worked in London for the war effort – they too are of that generation, they too would disavow your views. I am not embarrassed of any of them – I’m immensely proud .

    Interestingly, you haven’t commented on the National Front wreath though. Do you think singing Nazi songs are the actions of patriots?

  • Ibrahim

    “Do you think singing Nazi songs are the actions of patriots?”

    why not? i could be a patriot and play the trombone with one foot in the toilet whilst dressed as Chairman Mao – who are you to say whether I would be a patriot or not?

  • steve B

    is singing the ‘red flag’ the actions of a patriot? socialism is the most insane death-cult mankind has ever invented. do you think wreath-laying by socialists is a step too far?

  • rubydoo

    we declared war on Germany. there is no natural inconsistency between being a National Socialist and a British Nationalist.

  • wltywb

    You’ve countered none of my questions because you’re completely wrong about everything. Which Nazi songs did the NF sing and who told you? Did they sing them at the Cenotaph?

    Why did your grandfathers support a ‘racist’ prime minister and ally themselves with Americans who had racist domestic policies?

    As I said, Churchill wanted Britain to stay white and most of our veterans agreed with him. My grandmother lost two brothers who died fighting the Nazis. She lived and died in London, and watched her area decline into a third world ghetto. If white people liked non-white immigration so much then why did they move out immediately? Why didn’t people like your grandparents move in? In fact, why aren’t more wealthy Labour MPs living in ethnic ghettos?

    Which enriched part of England do you live in? Presumably it’s somewhere like Tower Hamlets or Peckham, the kind of place your grandparents wanted for you. I hope you haven’t let them down by living in a mostly white area.

    So what exactly are you proud of? Tell me why Britain is better for being multi-racial and why it’s good that white people are being gradually marginalised. Facts and figures, please. Fat chance.

  • Newsbot9

    I’m not sure it isn’t, Ivan.

    The thing is, under FPTP those differences are buried. With PR and a sensible voting threshold, we’d see them expressed IMO.

  • Newsbot9

    Carved up? No, no bodies in the street. Demolished? The housing shortage is thanks to Thatcher. That you hold Little Englander, 50’s views, apparently, seems by your comment to be nom more than a factual description. You are, as you say, a fan of Powell, who tried to create rivers of bloods on out streets, and it’s no coincidence that Churchill lost the 1945 election.

    You also have no idea how equality laws work, preferring bitter racist slogans. (The entire point of them these days is, of course, equality of opportunity rather than positive action).

  • Guest

    Yes yes, you make excuses for YOUR violent thugs as usual.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah right, you want a patriot to be as you define it to be, rather than a sensible definition.

  • Alex

    This is exactly how freedoms are eroded and then disappear.

    A paternalistic socialist, so convinced of his own moral superiority over the masses, tries to impose his views on others for their own good. Of course, he doesn’t think of it like this, since he’s talking about Nazism and so it’s easy to froth with righteous indignation. He’s on safe ground and it allows him to appear modern, forward thinking, tolerant and cool.

    So the NF is ‘banned’ from laying down a wreath. But other similar groups try to lay wreaths, and damnit, they hold these awful extreme views too. We can’t keep trying to stop these groups, we must do something to stop it completely! I know, let’s create a “British Cenotaph Association”. Only members can lay wreaths. We’ll have a special committee to decide who can be a member. Want to be a member? Oh sorry.

    And we really can’t have the BNP on Question Time, either. It’s just beyond the pale, old chap. Let’s create a new law to stop it. But then we must stop these other extreme groups from appearing on TV too. And look at UKIP, you might interpret them as a little bit suspect too. Better ‘ban’ them too. In fact, when you think about it, any sort of discussion on immigration is a bit suspect. Just to be on the safe side, we’ll run all broadcasts past a Central Ethical Standards Committee before broadcast.

    This is how it happens. The control of individuals by the state, the censorship of dissenting views, and the loss of personal freedom, a less open, less free society. It’s socialism all over. “We know what’s best for you” and we’re going to impose it.

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