Last Sunday, with hundreds of other Islington residents, I attended the remembrance service at Islington Green.
Just as last year, the new memorial looked wonderful and we seemed to have a better turnout than ever. The multifaith elements worked well – prayers from the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Buddhist faiths, as well as traditional Christian ones. Remembrance in Islington was particularly appropriate this year because a member of the Honorable Artillery Company (based on City Road in the borough) was killed in action just a few months ago.
Islington’s Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Council leader laid their wreaths on behalf of the borough, each with a story to tell. Mayor Stefan Kasprzyk is the child of Polish refugees who came here after World War II. Council leader James Kempton, like Stefan, was born in Islington to a local family. And deputy Mayor Anna Berent had her first political activity in an even earlier war – rattling a tin to collect funds in support of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. At the other end of the age range, we seemed to have more children and young people on parade than ever before, from Brownies and Rainbows to Sea Scouts and Explorers.
After the Islington Green service, some of us went on to Spa Green, where I laid a wreath. My late grandfather was one of those directly affected when Finsbury was bombed in the blitz; as I blogged last week, his workplace and former home on City Road were destroyed. In World War I, he was sent to Ireland to learn to ride a horse; not much use in the trenches. Both my grandads survived the trenches, and did their bit in the blitz too. My parents, London kids in wartime, grew up with gasmasks and bomb shelters. For good or ill, the war was a shared experience.
In these days with wars fought by a professional army thousands of miles away, it’s even more important we don’t forget the sacrifices past and present, and the cost of war for everyone.