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Common Misfortune

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One of the striking traditions of Remembrance Sunday is the wreath that the Foreign Office lays at the Cenotaph. All the other wreaths are made at the British Legion’s Poppy Factory, but the FCO’s is supplied from Kew. It represents the flora of Britain’s overseas territories, so this year, for example, it contains Bermuda snowberry, slipper spurge (Anguilla), myrtle (Gibraltar), moss (British Antarctic), boxwood (St Helena), parrot’s plantain (Virgin Islands) and tussock grass (the Falklands).

This year the focus is on veterans of Korea, who headed the march past on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. Two minutes is not quite long enough to read James Cameron’s legendary dispatch from Inchon, where he landed with the marines in September 1950, but here is an extract:

Why the North Koreans did not resist more forcefully I do not know… They lost their beachhead, they lost their town, they lost their lives, in numbers, and with them the lives of many simple people who shared the common misfortune of many simple people before them, who had the ill-luck to live in places which people in War Rooms decided to smash.

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