Friday, 21 August 2009

A military funeral

Yesterday afternoon I went to sit in the park in which the Lutheran church in Vaasa, Finland is situated. I wanted to do some reading. I then became aware that a funeral was taking place in the church some distance away.

Then out of the church came a large honour party carrying wreaths. The coffin was then preceded by the Finnish flag, including the special version for Vaasa which includes a central device to record its valour against the Russians in the 19th century.

Even from some distance away, it was evident that the widow, embraced by the senior military officer present, was relatively young and accompanied by a boy about ten or twelve years old.

I had to check that Finland is fighting in Afghanistan, but it is. Of course, Finnish troops distinguished themselves fighting against the Russians in the Second World War. The funeral could, of course, be for someone killed in an accident.

When I came back to Britain, I saw another set of funerals being held in Wootton Bassett with the accompanying outpouring of grief. Each of these events represents a personal tragedy for a family.

It's not a conscript army and those who join it should be aware of the risks they are taking, but probably hope it won't be them. I was of a generation that escaped military service, but I am conscious of the sacrifices of those that do join up.

Majority public opinion would probably be in favour of the army leaving Afghanistan. It is difficult to see how a 'troops out' movement would effectively mobilise politically, as the Conservatives have criticised what they see as deficiencies in the equipment provided for the troops and the strategy followed without actually saying that they would pull out British troops.

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