Who remembers the innocents? 49



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On the 11th of November at 11am, people in many countries will pause in silence to remember those in the armed services who gave their lives in any number of wars. But, who takes the time to remember the millions of innocent lives lost in these conflicts?

I was born in 1947, two years after the worst conflict in history. Since then, there has not been a time when there has not been a conflict or terrorism somewhere in the world in which innocent people have been killed. From my early years I witnessed Tibet, the Mau Mau uprising, Korea, Ireland, Vietnam, numerous civil wars etc. The recent bombing by the USA of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in which at least 12 staff and 7 patients including 3 children were killed is another incident of innocent people losing their lives. Islamic State criminals today are involved in the slaughter of innocents who do not comply with their insane ideology.

Estimates of civilian deaths in two world wars vary. In WWI 11 million soldiers died and 7 million civilians. In WWII 21-25 million soldiers died and 50-55 million civilians. At least a quarter of a million people were killed when the USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that eleven million people were killed in the holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis, being 6 million victims of Jewish origin, 3 million Christian Polish victims and two million victims from other countries.

Nobody (as far as I can tell) who has been involved in a conflict comes back and says they had a great time. In fact, the opposite applies. If war is spoken about at all, you will be told war is not worth it. My father who was in WWII from the start to the finish only mentioned where he served, but never the details. “I was there in the war” would be his comment when he heard of a place in the news, but nothing more.

Of course we should remember and honour those people in the armed service who gave their lives in protecting our freedom. We also need to recognise that some of these service men also killed others in their line of duty and that millions of innocent men, women and children who died during conflict did not by accident. Many communities have been bombed out of existence. Some people were executed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others eliminated in programs of organised genocide.

It would not be difficult to combine the commemoration of armed service with that of remembering the innocents. Instead of the sole emphasis on the military with the implication of glorifying war, it would provide a more realistic and grounded view of what war means.

“And let us also remember those innocent people whose lives ended tragically through no fault of their own”.

Do you feel like we do enough to commemorate the innocents lost to war?

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Michael Whitehead

Michael Whitehead attended uni as a mature age student in his 50s, completing multiple postgraduate degrees in health science and psychology. He has a canoe, a pushbike, a bodyboard, a tennis racquet and a fishing rod. He uses them all. Michael is now enjoying retirement after a wide range of careers, most recently as Manager of a Family Support Service.

  1. Yes I believe we do. We commemorate and appreciate the sacrifice made by these young men on a regular basis, take care of their families through Legacy.RSL clubs hold silence every day. Nothing will bring them back.
    The best commemoration would be to appreciate our own lives and freedom we have gained because they were willing to fight for them.

    2 REPLY
    • You are so right… Ww2 & 1 history should be taught more. We can never give enough gratitude to the sacrifices, knowingly made for our lives today. I found , although they had heard the name, many young ( under 40 ) people do not know what happened at Dunkirk. Just that story is a good starting point, as they are really shocked, when they read the history.

  2. With 100 million perished I war war 2 , , that’s why a ” baby boom ” was needed in the post war years, are we expected to believe the baby boom could ever replace the lost lives, not mentioning ( tho I will) the millions of potential children & descendants ,which those perished, never had. The ” problem” is really that the baby boomers didn’t have bigger families, & the smaller families were more indulged, & have higher expectations.

  3. They are part of remembrance , we don’t just say thanks to all men and woman who died for us, I remember all who were in the WARS..

  4. As well as thousands of innocent children shipped overseas never to see their loved ones alive again,sent to places like Fairbridge Farm in Orange,to be slaves to the brothers there,horrible

  5. Yes I do think of the innocents. Everyone was innocent I believe (except for the instigators) soldiers included. I think of the English war babies shipped to Australia and told their families in London were dead, of the brave animals who bravely helped soldiers in terrifying conditions and the heroic nurses who were unbelievably stoic; there are just many we need to say a silent thank you to. I would also include in my thanks those men who were shot for desertion. Not everyone can take the horrors of war and some were just boys, breaks my heart even thinking of them.

    5 REPLY
    • I once asked my grandfather if went ashore the first day at Gallipoli. He said No but he wished he had. As the casualties grew, the transport ships had to be cleared to become hospital ships. The horses and mules were forced overboard to drown, get shelled or machine gunned or become entangled and helpless on the wired beaches. The men asked the officers to be allowed to shoot the animals before they went overboard so they wouldn’t suffer. No was the answer. When I joined the army my grandfather asked why I would voluntarily join that pack of bastards.

    • I think maybe because a thank you sounds more grateful Robyn (and I am). It’s more personal that sorry, though who could not be deeply sorry for the whole horrific mess everyone went through?

    • I remember staying at my grandparents house and my cousin and I building jumps in the yard to jump our horses over. That night my grandfather had shocking nightmares and Grandma asked us not to jump our horses where Grandpa could see. It evidently brought back images of horses being forced to leap into the sea.

  6. Well written Michael. My grandfather never talked about the war. He was a light horseman. My view is, they were all innocents. No-one going to war, or a victim of war could ever have imagined the horror.

  7. I give thanks for these brave soul who gave their all so that we might be a free country. Yes I think of the innocents… but if they had sat back like todays pacifists and do gooders… maybe there would have been no you & me & certainly Australia would have been speaking another launguage! Never forget that!

  8. We can never remember enough of the innocent victims (and the young soldiers called up were also innocent victims) or the ravages of war on the people who survived.
    The tragedy of all the wars down the centuries we never learn that nothing comes out of war except lost souls, damaged souls with nowhere to live and nothing to eat. I cannot imagine living through a war. The fact that returned soldiers never talk about tells us everything.

  9. All my family has some connection to war, WW1 my grandfather was involved in Hill 60 the horror was to much to bare. WW2 my father my two uncles went off for adventure, didn’t find it. My stepfather in the Navy and involved with” D” Day landing couldn’t talk about the carnage. Mum was engaged to another, he was a pilot returning home with a plane full of wounded, never made it. The ravages of war spread far and wide, that ripple effect. ” I will remember them”

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