How The People’s Memorial came to be
Millions of years ago, Mother Nature imposed Her will and carved a natural inlet into Britain’s south coast. Today her work is called ‘Langstone Harbour’.
The inlet fills at high tide before draining out, leaving muddy flats, into the Solent and English Channel. On a sunny day, one can look northwest toward the rolling hills of the West Sussex Downs; the water is sky-blue lapping onto the beach separating sea and land, the locality now a protected nature reserve. In winter, when the storms lash the South Coast of ‘The Emerald Isle’, Langstone Harbour becomes a grey place to be. Rain, whipped up by strong gales, blankets the area; it soaks any walkers to the bone. This is what Mother Nature intended, whatever season, for us to enjoy.
‘The Peoples Memorial’, built by Willie Goldfinch, at his own expense, upon the shoreline of Langston Harbour, was created as a tribute to the serving men and women of our British Armed Forces who, today, find themselves at war on foreign battlefields, and to those who pay the ultimate sacrifice and in decades long past. And, as ‘The Peoples’ Memorial’ suggests by its very name, it is a very special place for everyone, of all races, religions, creeds and political leanings, to visit, to be at peace, and to pray.
Those of you, and there are thousands of people from around the world who visit ‘The Peoples’ Memorial’ every year, most often come to Langstone Harbour to enjoy not only this gift from Mother nature, but to pay homage to the fallen. And those who walk the shoreline, with peace and decency in their hearts, hope for better things to come, for:
Hope is a good thing and Hope never Dies
Back in October 2009, while I was jogging along the Langstone Harbour pathway listening to the early morning news bulletins via the earpiece attached to my pocket-size transistor radio, I heard yet again a report informing the British public that, ‘Two British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan’. The reporter went on to say, in a very detached and clinical way, that ‘their families have been informed’.
Upon hearing these increasingly familiar words, a combination of anger, British passion and pride, along with an awareness of the fact that our British Christian beliefs, our culture and our democratic way of life in recent years, have been under attack unlike at any other time in our history. I felt compelled and passionately driven to stop where I was, and at that moment, on that day back in the early winter of October 2009, I began to create The People’s Memorial.
My motivations were many as I embarked upon this venture. But first and foremost was my desire to show respect and to pay tribute to all our British serving forces, and second, to send a message of sympathy and support to all the families who have lost loved ones to the evils of war.
Another part of me felt driven to create a tangible focus point that I hoped would serve to remind each and every one of us of the enormous human sacrifices that have been made for our British freedom and the unique culture that we enjoy today.
And whilst I am acutely aware of the fact that the British democracy, for which our serving forces have fought and died for, ‘is not perfect, it never has been and it never will be’. I am also aware of the truth that, despite all its flaws and imperfections, the British democracy is the fairest, most compassionate and most decent democracy in the entire world.
I feel that it is worth reminding ourselves of the fact that ‘all natural born British and all who peacefully adapt and give their allegiance to British democracy, to our culture and to our British way of life are guaranteed the protection, freedoms and benefits of what it means to be British’.
No other country on earth is more compassionately civilised than the United Kingdom. And whether we are British by birthright or have chosen to adopt Britain as our homeland, we all have a moral obligation to be ever mindful of the fact that we inherited the freedoms that come with being British from thousands of years of history, and from human sacrifice on battlefields around the world.
We must also be mindful of the fact that we who enjoy British freedoms are the direct beneficiaries of the sacrifices of countless British serving men and women, who throughout many wars gallantly fought and died whilst challenging the armies of foreign dictators who sought to destroy the British democracy and the freedoms that we have today.
Furthermore, it was their courage, bravery and sacrifice that gave the entire Western world the window of freedom, and the opportunity to make a new beginning and adopt democratic ideals. Above all other nations, historically and to this present day, we British have sacrificed so much to promote the values of freedom, human justice and human decency throughout the world. Therefore, we have an intrinsic right to feel proud of who we are.
We British citizens also have a moral obligation of basic human decency to be ever thankful to our serving men and women, past and present. And we must forever honour the memory of all who have been lost to the evils of war.
In their memory, as we journey through life, we must strive to live according to the values for which they fought and died, British values that include loyalty, human decency, honesty, compassion, fairness and tolerance towards all who walk life’s way with us. Choose to lend a helping hand instead of casting doubt, and don’t be too proud to stoop to lift those who may have fallen, instead of trampling them into the dirt. Invest in human decency, and encourage fair play with justice tempered with mercy.
If we respect these British values and strive to apply them to our everyday lives, we will be honouring all who have given their own lives to secure the freedoms that we enjoy today, because these values are deeply embedded in what it truly means to be British.
During the battle of the Somme in the First World War, two young friends – British boys, both aged only fifteen – one day decided to escape the poverty and squalor of their everyday lives. Together they left their homes and went in search of a new beginning and a better way of life. But they soon realised that opportunities were few, with most of the world inflicted with poverty and war. The only real opportunity open to them was to join the army, so together they went to the recruiting office where they forged their ages and signed up. After a couple of weeks of basic training, they were sent to the trenches of the Somme, and a few days later, one of these young lads, along with his comrades, was ordered into battle.
Just a few yards from his trench, he was mortally wounded, and his shocked friend saw it happen, as did his commanding officer, who immediately told his friend that on no account must he go to help him. Despite this order, the lad climbed out of his trench and rushed towards his dying friend. He managed to lift him onto his shoulder, but as he was heading back to the safety of the trench, he himself was shot and wounded.
As he and his friend fell into the trench, the commanding officer shouted angrily, ‘I ordered you not to go; it was not worth it! And now I have lost two men.’
The wounded young boy looked at his commanding officer and said, ‘Oh, but, sir, it was worth it, because when I got to him, he said, “Jim, I knew that you would come.”’
This young man’s actions were motivated by the values he lived by and by what it means to be British.