Military records are precise and concise and convey very little about the reality of war. As a family we do not subscribe to the notion of imperialist war, but we are proud that our grandfather volunteered to join the British Army to fight fascism in the 1940’s.
As the Old Guard falls away, their place in the line is often taken by their younger relatives. As British Veterans of the Soviet Red Army are not acknowledged by the rightwing British Legion – and are not welcome at London’s Cenotaph – these brave Veterans quite rightly congregate here.
Many Russian people in attendance silently hold-up portraits of their family members who gave their lives during the Great Patriotic War. It is interesting to observe that these young descendants of Soviet war casualties often also unfurl the Red Flag with its gold hammer and sickle and make pro-Communist statements.
This invasion took the German military emphasis away from the UK (and the USA) – who had been encouraged by British diplomats (and others) to attack the USSR prior to the start of WWII. The duplicitous Winston Churchill, for instance, was quite happy for Nazi Germany to destroy the Soviet Union – until Britain itself fell prey to the Nazi menace.
Philips Matthews made an excellent speech quoting Stalin, stating how grateful the Soviet was for the European (and USA) support during the Great Patriotic War, and how he (Stalin) valued the efforts of the Western forces as they invaded France and began to fight their way across Europe, freeing it from Nazi control. Stalin said that the Soviet people drew strength from this show of support. The Mayor of Southwark, Abdul Mohamed, spoke about the importance of the defeat of fascism and communities living in peace, whilst the Russian Embassy representative – Minister-Counsellor Alexander Kramarenko – made a very poignant speech stating that as long as Russia exists, the Soviet sacrifice will never be forgotten. He spoke at length about the importance of the defeat of fascism in 1945, and how it is important to remain forever watchful in the present time. He reminded the crowd that fascism had re-emerged in the Ukraine, and that it was a threat to world peace. Indeed, the Ukrainian delegation refused to visit the memorial on the same day as the surviving veterans (who had fought for their freedom in WWII), but instead elected to lay their wreath a day earlier. The only speaker who was noticeably out of place was Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes representing the current and highly rightwing ConDem Coalition government of the UK. Simon Hughes is the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, and yet ironically attracted controversy in 2013 with his pro-Christian, homophobic rhetoric, which he used when expressing his opposition to gay marriage, and the principle of equality between gay and straight people.