In years to come, as old soldiers in bars all around Scotland reminisce about their time in the Army, I would be surprised if someone didn’t talk about the time the Regimental Sargent Major and the Padre threw themselves face down in a large muddy puddle to the amusement of the assembled regiment. We were on exercise in southern Germany preparing to go to Iraq and for the past week every time the attack alarm sounded, telling us a rocket attack was on its way, we had all thrown ourselves down to the ground. It had simply become second nature to us. The RSM and I had been in a meeting and so had failed to hear that the exercise had finished. We were chatting to a group of soldiers when the attack alarm sounded. Someone had pressed the wrong button, but we didn’t think: we acted and launched ourselves to the ground. I am sure, if memory serves, they were laughing with us, not at us. The next few months weren’t a laughing matter and we all spent far more time on our belt buckles than we wanted to, as rockets fell all around us.
Warfare can be rather noisy, though as one of the veterans of Dunkirk remarked as he watched the new film of the same name. ‘It was exactly like that but much quieter.’ The film soundtrack is very loud, but I can confirm that it was exactly how I remembered it feeling as I lay on the ground in various parts of Iraq.
This month marks the 78th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Each year there are less witnesses to the brutality of that conflict. Each year there are fewer men and women, military and
civilian, for us to thank for their service. Those who fought during that great conflict did so to bring about world peace. We know that our world is imperfect, but though it has been a close-run thing on several occasions, global war has been kept at bay for over 70 years. We are all aware, through 24-hour media coverage, that war and conflict continues around the world, but, thank God, not many of us
have had personal experience of it. However, we can see, every day on the news, what hatred of each
other can do. The sight of swastika’s being carried through an American town a few weeks ago, as white supremacists, carrying semi-automatic rifles, tried to establish their ‘rights’ was truly shocking. As one commentator said, ‘I wonder how those veterans who stormed the Normandy beaches felt to see the swastika flying in America.’ All this conflict is far away from us, but in our own lives I suspect we all harbour petty grievances; I know that I do. Jesus told us to love God and to love our neighbour. The second part of this statement always seems the hardest, but as we honour the memory of all those who fought for a better world, let’s try to do our bit for world peace. Make friends with someone you struggle to like. Say sorry to someone you are in conflict with. You will feel better and the world will be a better place, because of you.