War memorials – ways of remembering

Lord Soley

There was a debate on defence issues on Friday inevitably dominated by Afghanistan but it went wider than that. I referred to the importance for our troops of ensuring that we did not try and score political points in these debates. You can read the debate here and see what you think.


I also used the campaign to abolish the slave trade as an example of how memorials can be used to reconnect with our history and remind ourselves that conflicts of the type we are struggling with in Afghanistan are not unique and sadly will re occur in the coming decades. I particularly want to see a memorial to the Royal Navy and Marines which could include and represent all those from Africa and Europe who campaigned or fought for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. I suggest it could be situated in Ghana – a stable and democratic country so closely associated with the slave trade. It could be a statue of liberty for Africa and demonstrate to people of all races that although the slave trade was driven by extreme brutality it was also stopped by the courage and conviction of Africans and Europeans who increasingly rose up against the abhorrent trade. I think the Commonwealth will also be interested in this.

 16,000 RN personnel lost their lives in the campaign to stop the transatlantic slave trade. Their contribution was vital.  Should we not remember it and does it have something to tell us about current conflicts? Please read what I say about this in my speech and let me know what you think – I would particularly like to hear from people with links to the RN, the Army and RAF.

13 comments for “War memorials – ways of remembering

  1. 07/11/2009 at 3:13 pm

    As an ex-Navy man of over 30 years, I think this is a reasonable idea. It needs someone to see if he can gel the public to provide financial support for such memorials.

    However, please don’t use tax payers money for this. Tax payers are already heavily overtaxed.

  2. franksummers3ba
    07/11/2009 at 4:23 pm

    Lord Soley,
    My guess is that some British families have produced many generations in which their ancestors have been involved in riding dispatches, military policing, boarding slave ships, “peacetime” scouting and other small unit actions. The tendency for some may be heritable culturally and genetically. These sorts of actions tend to be forgotten and not make the history books. The thematic memorials may offer a way to include there sacrifice in the memory of nations.

    In our increasingly thin-skinned world as regards speech I tend to think that we get too worried about easy offenses. However, I must admit that although I am not British I found Lord S.’s (not yourself)comment that there had been 110 battles since Hastings insensitive. I imagine perhaps skirmishes and rows are not battles but felt empathy for the families who may have sacrificed much blood in such events and see that such a statement is so easily made. If all such conflicts were counted the number would be so much greater.

    • Carl Holbrough
      08/11/2009 at 2:15 pm

      The 110 figure is a long way off being correct even if ALL major battles were the only ones counted.

      The following link only goes upto the Boer War, approx 116 battles from, but not including the Battle of Hastings.


      • franksummers3ba
        08/11/2009 at 3:22 pm

        Thanks for the link. I imagine the Great War, the Second World War, the Falkland Island War, The Gulf Wars of my lifetime, the war in Afghanistan currently and others have added to that tally significantly.

  3. Bedd Gelert
    07/11/2009 at 4:31 pm

    Tough words in the House of Lords…


  4. Carl Holbrough
    07/11/2009 at 4:34 pm

    The War Memorials Trust, the UK National Inventory of War Memorials are I believe charitable ventures. They try very hard to keep going UK memorials that are falling into disrepair.

    Our troops in Afghanistan appear ill equipped and the compensation for lifelong disabilities miserly.

    Three generations of males in my family have served Queen and Country, proudly.

    Bring one more boy, well equipped, safely home and we will remember our brothers who fell in our hearts and minds.

  5. Senex
    08/11/2009 at 5:51 pm

    Lord Soley: When you said “Why do you have those point-scoring games when we are fighting here?” I think you may have missed the point?

    It is the nature of Monarchy to wage war on others sometimes without any accountability or sensible rationale. Parliament during its long history has dealt with the Monarchy and eliminated it power to wage war.

    The power to do so has passed to Parliament in the form of the ‘Royal Prerogative’ and the decision given to the leader of government.

    Prime Minister Blair decided that the decision to go to war should be a democratic one and passed it to a vote. He did this in the face of a conventional wisdom that said we don’t always win wars and they can and do go wrong. His logic was flawed because such a vote needed an accompanying government of national unity to stop political infighting.

    Let us put the two combatants side by side, a squaddy and a guerilla and look at their attire as well as the cost of kit. No contest! The enemy’s costs are substantially lower than our own. We are not fighting a high tech enemy but we use high tech sledge hammers to crack walnuts because that’s what we do.

    It all reminds me of the US cavalry’s fight against Apache Geronimo and Cochise. On reflection they seem little different to the Taliban except that they did not have at their disposal the enormous amounts of Russian ordnance lying around with which to adapt into lethal IED’s. Should we be putting cavalry into theatre?

    If the war goes badly it will be Parliament that suffers not the Prime Minister. When we choose a future Prime Minister perhaps we should ensure that they are committed to using the ‘Royal Prerogative’, firstly to protect the integrity of Parliament and secondly to wage war.

    • 08/11/2009 at 6:51 pm

      With due respect for Cochise and acknowledgrment of the Taliban’s fighting capacity you are walking in high cotton when you write of Geronimo. It may not show in the records because he was not granted by fate a very great stage but I and many other Americans believe the Geronimo was one of the finest tacticians ever to have lived. I know that may offend some reading this, but I sincerely believe this to be true.

    • Carl Holbrough
      08/11/2009 at 7:08 pm

      Helmand Province is roughly two and a half times the area of Wales.

      We have 9000 servicemen there, a lot of those will be logistics, engineers and transport. The Army has asked for 500 more, the Government is dithering.

  6. Carl Holbrough
    08/11/2009 at 6:25 pm


    Korea, Suez, Ireland, Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez Borneo, Vietnam, Aden, Radfan, Oman, Dhofar, Northern Ireland etc.

    When one is talking of battles and Politicians it maybe best to remember them in light of Winston Churchills epic misadventures including, the Dardenelles,Norway and his expenses battle


    Or perhaps a more pertinent battle relating to the Lords…The Charge of the Light Brigade.

    Whilst Politicians may know the toilets are broken perhaps the plumber knows best how stop the problems.

  7. Clive Soley
    10/11/2009 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks for the comments. There would be no taxpayers money involved in a memorial. Like the Mary Seacole one we do it by charitable giving which is much easier now with the tax relief in addition to the gift.

    Having visited Afghanistan recently I can tell you that the troops are well equipped and will tell you so – the main problem is helicopters but remember you have to do foot patrols so they aren’t a total answer.

    This UN intervention with 40 different nations participating is led by the US and they will have to take the lead on a refined strategy.

    The quote on point scoring was not something I said – it was a soldier in Afghanistan. I was using it to illustrate the point that our troops are well informed about the reasons for being there. The problem is conveying that message to the general public. I recall in 1979 some 18 troops being killed in one IRA attack at Warren Point. Immediately the call for withdrawal from Northern Ireland became louder. Fortunately we didn’t withdraw.

    • Senex
      15/11/2009 at 5:14 pm

      Lord Soley: “The quote on point scoring was not something I said – it was a soldier in Afghanistan.” May I point out that soldiers are not paid to think, but to do or die, on that basis political comments should always be referred to the brass for clarification because they see the big picture?

      What I find intensely annoying about British media and Parliamentary discourse is the use of the phrase ‘NATO forces’. This is entirely point scoring to reinforce EC support and is not recognition of those serving in Afghanistan with the letters ISAF emblazoned onto their tunics.

      The PC phrase should be ‘NATO ISAF and Afghan Forces’ in recognition of those cooperating or laying down their lives in this UN sanctioned ‘coalition of the willing’.

      There are two international forces at work in Afghanistan: ISAF and the OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). The latter is part of a larger mission by the US to counter terrorism in several locations around the world.

      Ref: International Security Assistance Force
      UN Security Council 6198th Meeting; ISAF Update 2009

  8. Carl Holbrough
    10/11/2009 at 9:40 pm

    1st October 2009

    “No more troops can be sent to Afghanistan without improvements to equipment, the Defence Secretary said today as ministers urged Afghans and other Nato members to take more responsibility for the mission”


    My Noble Lord, I cannot find in any post above, any call to abandon or withdraw from Afghanistan. Neither do I remember as a Serviceman during the 70`s hearing any calls for withdrawal fom NI, nor calls for ID cards or other restrictions that have been hoisted upon citizens on the pretext of terrorism.

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