Remembrance Day is special.
In a triumphalist world it is special that once a year we choose not to glory in our victories, but to commemorate those who have fallen. The poppy is a symbol of heroism – but the heroism of sacrifice, not of victory.
I cannot imagine war.
I could not handle seeing my best friend riddled with bullets. I couldn’t raise a family on my own, knowing that my loved ones may never return. And I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma of reacclimatising to civilian life, or the guilt of being a survivor.
It is absolutely critical that we honour those that have made, and continue to make, these sacrifices for us.
It is also vital that we reflect upon the freedoms that these sacrifices have earned for us.
This year I feel a particular gratitude to our servicemen and women. This is the first Remembrance Day that I’ve been a Labour Councillor. Without the sacrifices made by millions of people to defend our way of life and defeat the evil Nazi regime, it would simply be impossible for me to be a political activist for an opposition Party.
And we should remember who made these sacrifices for us.
Alongside the millions of brave men and women from Britain and her white allies, almost 300,000 East Africans, almost 250,000 West Africans and over 5,000 from the Caribbean took up arms. An astonishing two and a half million Indians served, suffering 87,000 casualties and earning 30 Victoria Crosses.
Whether these men and women were fighting out of loyalty to Britain, or in the hope of a better future for their own lands – they played a crucial role in preserving the freedoms we enjoy today.
Britain will never again fight a war like World War Two. But these remain difficult times. And in difficult times divisive elements will always pin blame on those who look different.
Free speech is all about allowing a voice for the opinions you most passionately disagree with.
But those who preach race hatred should remember that our cherished British civil liberties were earned with the blood of black and Asian, as well as white, heroes.