Lest we forget: the Poppy Appeal doesn’t glorify war – Lesley Keating

British soldiers in a battlefield trench during the First World War
British soldiers in a battlefield trench during the First World War
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On November 11 it will be 100 years since the guns on the Western Front fell quiet, marking the beginning of the end of the First World War. Millions of young men, most of them still in their teens, protected their families, our country and our freedom in what was dubbed  ‘the war to end all wars’.

 More than 700,000 never returned.

 Virtually no village, no community, no town went without sacrifice, and, having had a relative who survived the horrors of the trenches, I know how bitter and bloody the so-called ‘Great War’ was.

Which is why the opinionated and self-righteous Cambridge student activist  Stella Swain makes my blood boil.

She’s made very clear that she feels the Poppy Appeal is all about ‘glorifying’ war and therefore Cambridge students will not be supporting the poppy appeal this year. What a shame someone in such an influential position is so ignorant of the facts. 

This is not a history lesson and it’s not for me to argue the rights and wrongs of war, but it’s agreed that Europe would have been very different without the sacrifice these young men made. 

Yes, the majority had no idea what they were really getting into and, yes, many thought it was a ‘proud and glorious’ thing to fight for their country but soon learned the gritty truth when the reality became very different.  But they still fought so that their loved ones at home had a future.

The Poppy Appeal is a solemn and poignant symbol for remembering how they stood up to oppression, securing our futures, not a badge of glorification.

It’s strap line is ‘Lest We Forget’.  It supports our veterans and their families, remembering British sacrifices in all conflicts, honouring those who gave their lives so we could all enjoy the freedom we do today. 

Stella Swain would do well to appreciate the poppy as a symbol of support and grateful thanks for the freedom of speech she utilises and the democracy that she clearly takes for granted, without which there may not even be a Cambridge students’ union at all.

Got £4m to spare? You could turn heads with these gems

An intriguing haul of previously unseen jewellery is to be auctioned at Sothebys. Hidden for more than 200 years, the historic gems were owned by ill-fated French Queen Marie ‘let them eat cake’ Antoinette. 

Earrings valued at £233,000, several pearl and diamond necklaces, brooches and a ring containing a lock of her hair are expected to fetch about £4m. They were smuggled out of France by the Bourbon-Parma family during the revolution. The famously extravagant Queen of France was eventually guillotined aged 37. 

Sotheby’s enthused ‘It’s the sale of the century! How do you top Marie Antoinette?’ Bit of an unfortunate turn of phrase…

Everything’s orange in the US now – even their president

Although Halloween started in Britain we’re getting more like America with fake blood, spooky sweets and ghoulish get-ups everywhere. We can blame the overkill on the US where everything’s orange now – even the president.

When I was young there was just apple-bobbing or dressing up as a witch. Nobody had a plastic coffin in their porch. I don’t want kids I don’t know banging on the door after sweets and upsetting the dog. I respect it as Samhain, the pagan new year. Far from being about plastic skeletons and zombies, it’s about reflection, rebirth and honouring our ancestors. 

Oh, and lanterns were originally turnips. Pumpkins are an American invention too.