Here on the second floor of BBC TV Centre, the floor-to-ceiling windows to my right look out over busy West London. At 11am today – the 11th day of the 11th month – the red London buses on Wood Lane below will all pull over. Many people normally in a rush will stop in their tracks in the street. A couple of miles away, the Queen will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
They’ll all stand silent for 2 minutes and remember the war dead – 91 years after the First World War officially ended.
But the one British man still alive who was actually there doesn’t want to remember.
108-year-old Claude Choules – who now lives in Australia – hasn’t been to commemorations since he left the navy. His daughter has told reporters “he didn’t think we should glorify war”. Traumatised by his experiences, he’s not spoken about them since 1954.
Ceremonies are happening in many countries including South Africa, Australia and France, where the German Chancellor has taken part for the first time. They call it Veterans’ Day in the United States: a national holiday.
And while Claude Choules won’t be getting involved, this mother of a dead US serviceman killed in 2001 thinks MORE should be done on November 11th. She remembers a time when, on this day, “business-as-usual felt disrespectful”.
Do these commemorations glorify war? Or should more, not less, be done to remember troops who have died?