I had the honour of being in the audience at this year’s Festival of Remembrance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Organised by the Royal British Legion, this year the festival commemorated the charity’s 100 years of service to the Armed Forces community.
Also marked were the 30th anniversary of the first Gulf War (of which I’m proud to say that I played a small part), the 10th anniversary of the end of military operations in Iraq and the recent operation to repatriate British civilians from Kabul.
We heard from David and Sallie Wright, the parents of Royal Marine James Wright. James died in 2011 when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his checkpoint in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He was 22 years old.
It was this appearance of proud but grieving parents that turned the Festival of Remembrance from military spectacular to a profound expression of love and loss. When the Wrights led other bereaved family members across the floor of the hall, quiet sniffles turned to sobs and veterans with their chests full of medals dabbed at their eyes.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
NB: in order to gain entry into the Albert Hall, everyone had to show proof of a negative test (no older than 48 hours) and of receiving at least two doses of the vaccine.