Wednesday, 17 November 2010

My Letter on Remembrance Day and the Christmas Truce of 1914

Pictured: How the Illustrated London News depicted the truce

The following letter was printed in this week's Morley Observer and Advertiser:

As is the case every year, the townsfolk of Morley came out in their droves to pay their respects to our fallen servicemen and women on Remembrance Sunday. It was an honour for me to take part in the parade and ceremony, where I laid a wreath on behalf of my party. Wreaths were also laid at the ceremonies in Churwell and Tingley.

This annual commemoration is based around the date of the armistice that ended the First World War.

By the end of 1914 a number of battles had been fought with significant losses on all sides, and as the year’s end approached it slowly dawned on the various participants that this war would most probably not be over by Christmas after all. The set-piece battles of past conflicts were consigned to the history books and were replaced with the horrors of trench warfare. Though few could have guessed it at the time, the scene was set for a slaughter of Europe’s youth on an industrial scale that would shape the rest of the century to come.

Yet as Christmas Day in 1914 approached, the guns increasingly fell silent. In many sectors troops from opposing sides offered one another a hand of friendship. Soldiers erected makeshift Christmas trees, sang carols together, and exchanged cigarettes and chocolate and other gifts. Some played football.

I find it heartening and yet heartbreaking that such a spontaneous truce was possible. Heartening in that for this short time the youth of Europe could put aside their artificially imposed enmity and join together in the celebration of a common custom, and heart-breaking in that a short time later these young men who had been happily socialising with one another would be killing each other on a colossal scale once again.

I regard the Christmas Truce of 1914 as a beacon of humanity among the unimaginable pain and suffering of the Great War and think that this is a story worth reflecting on as we remember those who have died for their country.

Chris Beverley

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My Letter Regarding Circus Animals

The following letter was printed in today's Morley Observer and Advertiser:

Agree with animal ban

I agree wholeheartedly with the call to ban wild animal acts in travelling circuses (‘Help ban animal act’ letter, Morley Observer and Advertiser, 3rd November 2010).

I believe that transporting wild animals around the country and forcing them to perform for the amusement of a circus audience has no place in a civilised society.

Even with the best will in the world it would be extremely difficult to ensure the safety and well-being of animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants, which spend their lives on the road with a travelling circus.

The cases of wilful cruelty towards performing circus animals that have been exposed by the Captive Animals’ Protection Society strengthen the case for an all-out ban.

As well as calling for a change in the law, people have the option to vote with their feet and refuse to attend circuses that use wild animals, such as the one that was in Tingley recently. Local schools should acknowledge that we have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent cruelty to animals and teach their pupils why it is unethical to force wild animals to perform in circuses. Schools certainly should not be sending children home with flyers for such circuses, as at least one local school did recently.

My criticism is aimed only at circuses that use wild animals and is obviously not aimed at circuses and their performers in general. Circuses can be a fantastic spectacle and are truly worth visiting if you get chance. They contain some of the most exciting and raw live performances in the world.

Happily, many circuses do not use wild animals. Those that do should remove animals from their acts and concentrate instead on showcasing the feats of human skill and endurance for which circuses have become renowned throughout the centuries.

Chris Beverley