Attending the annual Remembrance Day Event in my local community of Oxhey Village, I was struck by the numbers who chose to come.  It made me wonder: Why do we still remember?  

You might think that, 80 years since the Second World War, people might begin to tone down the commemorations and, eventually, forget Remembrance Day altogether. In fact, in the 1970s, these rituals did begin to lose support amongst the British public. However, a November 2023 Ipsos survey suggests that 79% of people believe it is important to mark it. If there is little danger of the tradition vanishing any time soon, why is this?  Why do people still consider it relevant?

The Oxhey event involved a procession through local streets and a wreath-laying complete with Last Post and National Anthem. Those attending included representatives of His Majesty the King, members of the Armed Forces and Scouting Organisations, alongside many members of the community. 

I asked one local resident what made the occasion special for him.  “I’m here because I think Remembrance Day is a really special day”, he said.  “It’s such a sacrifice and it’s such an important time, and also, at the moment, everyone’s quite scared by the wars that are going on.  I think remembering people who’ve been brave in the past helps you be brave in the present.”

I asked the same question of John Radcliffe, a representative of the Armed Forces.  He responded, “After serving in the RAF for 23 years and having the privilege to do a lot of different roles… sadly I encountered people who died serving their country, and people who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  To me, this is such an important event, to remember people who have given everything for their country.”

How did he explain the persistent popularity of Remembrance Day?  “I think it’s because people are very proud… they’re proud to be British, they’re proud of their communities.  I think it’s just so important as time goes by, that we just don’t forget what’s happened and the people who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice for the country.”

For a view from the very top, I approached Hertfordshire Lord Lieutenant Robert Voss, the King’s personal representative in the county.  “More than ever people respect the role that the armed forces played in both world wars and in more recent conflicts.  The second World War heroes have all but gone – the public feel a need to show their respect even after a long period of time.  People really say with feeling ‘We will remember them’”.

These observations tell me that, at all levels of relationship to actual conflicts, and whether through heritage, service or just wanting to respect those who died, there remains a strong impetus for people to remember the past in order to secure the future. The sacrifice of those who gave their tomorrow for our today still lives on in the hearts and minds of people today, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.