Remembrance Sunday service Cenotaph London Royal Family Chief of Staffs November 2014 Picture Crown Copyright
An aerial view of the annual Service of Remembrance held at the Cenotaph in London (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Should Remembrance include emergency services now?

Maj (Retd) Charlie Pelling believes Remembrance is evolving - do you agree?

Remembrance Sunday service Cenotaph London Royal Family Chief of Staffs November 2014 Picture Crown Copyright
An aerial view of the annual Service of Remembrance held at the Cenotaph in London (Picture: Crown Copyright).

A retired British Army Major has questioned if Remembrance should go beyond commemorations for the Armed Forces and include other members of society who serve the country in other ways such as the emergency services.

Major (Retired) Charlie Pelling suggests that society might reconsider who Remembrance is for in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Royal Tank Regiment veteran Major (Retd) Pelling said that the extreme sacrifices NHS emergency service workers, such as paramedics, nurses, doctors and others have made since January 2020, has left him feeling that perhaps civilians could be included in people's thoughts around Remembrance, saying:

"The Poppy Appeal is and always will be primarily about remembering the military and families affected by conflict, but I wonder as well where now non-military Remembrance fits into that piece, particularly around our emergency services."

Since January 2020, in the most challenging and unsettling circumstances, emergency services staff have repeatedly gone above and beyond to care for their patients, regularly putting their own lives at risk.

They have worked excessive overtime on very little sleep; lived away from their loved ones for months at a time to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus; endured physical contact with their patients at a time when we were all being advised to keep our distance from each other and much more.

Major (Retd) Pelling, the manager of Lady Haig's Poppy Factory since 2008, believes now might be the time to have a wider discussion about what non-military Remembrance might look like and how it might fit in with the traditional annual focus on the Armed Forces and their families affected by conflict.

Major (Retired) Charlie Pelling Garden Of Remembrance Poppies Poppy Picture Major (Retired) Charlie Pelling
Major (Retired) Charlie Pelling stood in the Garden Of Remembrance (Picture: Major (Retired) Charlie Pelling).

Scotland's poppy factory was established in 1926 by Lady Haig, wife of Earl Haig who was the founder of the British Legion in May 1921. She was so frustrated that poppies being made in England were not making their way to Scotland that she set up a factory in Edinburgh.

Speaking with Mark McKenzie, BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster, about the Poppy Appeal and what Lady Haig would have thought of Remembrance today, Maj (Retd) Pelling said:

"I think she would be delighted that it has endured.

"I think she would recognise that the concept of Remembrance has moved on since she was alive."

The British Army veteran believes that, as time goes by, the world around us changes and society must adapt to keep up with those changes otherwise some might get left behind.

It has been 100 years since the first Poppy Appeal and in that time the world as we know it has changed dramatically.

This has included everything from the devastatingly brutal Second World War and the moon landing to the American civil rights movement and the invention of the internet. Moments in history that have shaped who we are as people.

COVID-19 has left its mark on us in so many ways and Maj (Retd) Pelling believes now is the time to remember all who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our people from COVID-19. He said:

"I think Remembrance evolves.

"I think that these last 18 months have changed the way we might look at Remembrance."

One thing that has not changed and evolved while Maj (Retd) Pelling has been the manager at Lady Haig's Poppy Factory, and something he has to address every year, is some people's belief that wearing a poppy is a glorification of war,  something he adamantly argues against, saying:

"It is the exact opposite of that.

"It is about sacrifice and hardship and anyone that's ever been in the military would never voluntarily choose to be involved in war.

"It's dirty, nasty and the poppy does not represent a celebration of that."