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Lest We Forget
November 25, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

"Almost 1,500 people from Royal Wootton Basset [Wiltshire, England] have taken part in a music video filmed on the same high street that they once lined to pay their respects to Britain's fallen soldiers."* They hope to raise £1 million for military charities with their cover of Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends".

"Nobody has ever told the people of Wootton Bassett to gather; it is a ritual of respect that has come about spontaneously. Their town - population 11,000 - simply happens to lie on the route between RAF Lyneham and John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxfordshire, where the bodies of service personnel are taken for post mortem examinations.*

From 2007 to September 2011 (when RAF Lyneham closed), Wootton Bassett [became] a very British version of Arlington, the US cemetery where respect is paid to the fallen. No fuss. No flowers or razzmatazz. No tired old formulae of condolence dished out by the PM before the argy-bargy of Prime Minister's Questions begins. Just thousands of people, young and old, standing with lowered eyes and lumps in their throats at the thought of yet more young lives ended in a distant land."*
posted by ericb (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
This past March Wootton Bassett became the first town in more than 100 years to get the title of "Royal" in recognition of its efforts to honor the UK's war dead.*
posted by ericb at 2:43 PM on November 25, 2011


That's very well done, although not really what I would have expected for a video aimed at memorializing fallen soldiers. Although that's probably because an American version would have been far more maudlin and aggressively patriotic.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:08 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wootton Bassett [became] a very British version of Arlington

Lest we forget -- How could I forget you?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2011


"To the memory of Our Fallen Heroes"

Oh please, teenagers* from council estates dying in some desert in the middle of nowhere for no reason aren't heroes, they're victims. Stop your stupid maudlin grief tourism and try to do something that ends this pointless war and gives poor kids something better to aspire to than cannon fodder.

*The UK over a third of those in the military joined under the age of 18, when they were not legally adults.
posted by Jehan at 3:19 PM on November 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


Previously on MeFi, the Highway of Heroes is Canada's analogue.

/just starting my thesis on the HoH and Wootton Bassett. I'll have a lot more to say in a year, heh.
posted by avocet at 3:31 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This video kind of shocked me in the same way it did Horace, that there were as many pink hats being waved as national flags. It strikes me as a much deeper and more meaningful expression of gratitude and loss that neatly sidesteps the questions of why they died in a more simple acknowledgement of their memory.

I wish we were classy enough to do something like that in my corner of the world, which is similarly jingoistic and generous with our sons.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:34 PM on November 25, 2011


I find this interesting because it's a song that's very ambivalent about war from a very anti-war album. But any coverage I've ever seen regarding Wooten Bassett is always framed to talk about 'respect' and 'honour', which is all well and good, but doesn't really examine whether these soldiers' deaths were meaningful or productive, which seems like the way to honour them.

I suppose I feel conflicted because, on the one hand, I think the people of Wooten Bassett did the 'right' thing, in that it probably greatly helped soldiers' families, but I don't like that we act as if they have discharged all of society's responsibility to dead soldiers.
posted by hoyland at 3:42 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Council ought to something about the drainage down that High Street. Puddling up both sides of the road.
posted by Abiezer at 3:58 PM on November 25, 2011


I love everything about this, starting with the fact that there's a town called Royal Wooten Basset.
posted by stargell at 4:07 PM on November 25, 2011


I must admit to being more in Jehan's camp. It may appear to those from other countries that this whole pantomime has been somehow more dignified than what happens where they are, but nevertheless it represents an appropriation of legitimate sadness and grief for political cover.
Things like Wootton Bassett, and the aggressive marketing and politicisation of the poppy campaign, as seen in the Jon Snow furore, seem to me to be part of a conscious attempt to shift the terms of debate to a situation where any criticism of the means or motive of the war is seen as an implicit criticism of "our brave boys". Bullshit like handing out the "Royal" designation to Wootton Bassett while shafting servicemen and their families directly by failing to provide adequate frontline equipment and indirectly by debacles such as the accommodation PFI fiasco reported in Private Eye are the standard MO for politicians and papers alike. It simultaneously belittles the real victims and distracts attention from those responsible, and so I find it distasteful to say the least.
posted by Jakey at 4:10 PM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Previously on Wootton Bassett
posted by infini at 5:08 PM on November 25, 2011


Stop your stupid maudlin grief tourism and try to do something that ends this pointless war and gives poor kids something better to aspire to than cannon fodder.

So disagreeing with their feelings and how they express themselves makes them "stupid" and "maudlin?"

They aren't jackasses; I know that much.
posted by ambient2 at 5:24 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So disagreeing with their feelings and how they express themselves makes them "stupid" and "maudlin?"

No, they're stupid and maudlin because they believe that weeping over the coffins of people they never knew is a good in itself.
posted by Jehan at 6:18 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry - I can't help being distracted by the person in green pants on the far right of the shot. It looks like a penis.
posted by mattoxic at 6:54 PM on November 25, 2011


Please be advised that should you express yourself without knowing someone personally affected by the issue that troubles you, you will be seen as stupid and maudlin.

Going forward, large databases will need to be constructed to ensure only certified individuals express themselves and it would probably be best that all persons carry cards advising all issues to which a certified and approved connection has been proven. Carry on.
posted by moneyjane at 7:00 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry - I can't help being distracted by the person in green pants on the far right of the shot. It looks like a penis.

Given that that's a woman, I'd say it's probably not a penis.

Also, Metafilter: It looks like a penis.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:38 PM on November 25, 2011


I would have liked to see an infrared shot from far above, from the perspective of a Predator drone.
posted by Flashman at 7:45 PM on November 25, 2011


Given that that's a woman

Hence I wrote "looks like a penis", not THAT'S A PENIS. Devil's in the detail.

Distracting none the less.
posted by mattoxic at 7:45 PM on November 25, 2011


Please be advised that should you express yourself without knowing someone personally affected by the issue that troubles you, you will be seen as stupid and maudlin.

If you protest at a military memorial you could be charged with a public order offense as your actions are "insulting" to those present. That's not a joke, or something I've pulled out of my arse, it's a very real possibility. Wootton Basset is not a simple case of private expression, but part of a larger social coercement to hold a certain opinion, and an increasing taboo against the opposite. Not taking part in such memorials—particularly the wearing of a poppy—is seen as a political statement and attracts strong disapproval from those who enforce opinion. Discussion of war and its rights and wrongs is wholly irrelevant beyond the constant reinforcement of the idea that the military dead are "heroes" that pay "the ultimate sacrifice". Thus it matters a great deal whether you have personal connections to the dead or not: the people at Wootton Basset are not grieving, they're worshipping. This is a cult.
posted by Jehan at 7:49 PM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's probably different if you're not in the UK: I thought the original gesture of standing by the road was simple, sincere, and moving, but I'm afraid my Wootton was all Basseted out some time ago
posted by Segundus at 1:32 AM on November 26, 2011


I would also have liked to have seen a predator drone, take out another predator drone, only because everything ariound it is much cooler, that and it's nightblue so it "looks" cooler than the white one, for like two thirds of the continent.
posted by Meatafoecure at 4:29 AM on November 26, 2011


And then the white drone brings it to the shop as a pr stunt and swaps its engine for drug money, there is a huge exile, the pyramids are rebuilt, mammoth portions of waffles are eaten for breakfast stolen from a cart.
posted by Meatafoecure at 5:30 AM on November 26, 2011


Well, if they are after the Christmas Number One spot, it appears they are going to have stiff competition from another military charity single. Step forward Gareth Malone's Military Wives Choir, who, after their performance at this year's Festival of Remembrance, look set to release Paul Mealor's "Wherever you are" just in time to go for the top spot.

O tempora, o mores.
posted by genesta at 7:56 AM on November 26, 2011


Sorry, that's Christmas Number One, for those from less enriched cultures...
posted by genesta at 8:17 AM on November 26, 2011


I have to admit that I have a hard time pushing through the banality of the song to appreciate anything else about the video. This arrangement, because it doesn't have the distraction of the "quiet to rockin' out" cliché (already tired by 2005) in the original recording, really highlights the repetitive monotony and lack of harmonic or melodic interest in the song.
posted by slkinsey at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2011



Please be advised that should you express yourself without knowing someone personally affected by the issue that troubles you, you will be seen as stupid and maudlin.


I'm married to a serving member of the British Army who has served in Afghanistan, I live on a military camp, and I know many people 'personally affected by the issue' and I think this is only one facet of the maudlin and frankly disturbing trend of 'celebrating' the military in the UK (and Australia), also represented by 'poppy fascists'.
posted by Megami at 11:52 AM on November 26, 2011


Please be advised that should you express yourself without knowing someone personally affected by the issue that troubles you, you will be seen as stupid and maudlin.

My point being that I do not think people should be labeled 'maudlin' and 'stupid' for feeling sad about people they don't personally know suffering and dying, whatever others may think about how those people express themselves and despite those doing the labeling's own personal and political opinions about the situation causing the suffering and dying.

I'm Canadian. I don't know any soldiers, I don't know any soldier's families, I may or may not agree with Canadian soldiers being in Afghanistan; however when I watch footage of the Highway of Heroes I feel terrible as do countless others because it's goddamn sad when people die in war.

...they're stupid and maudlin because they believe that weeping over the coffins of people they never knew is a good in itself.

Calling grieving people 'maudlin' and 'stupid' because they're essentially 'not doing it right' is reasonable how? Any striving to appear more sophisticated than the people one feels are in error really goes out the window when the name-calling begins.
posted by moneyjane at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2011


Sorry to break up the groupthink.

I just can't join in the nastiness aimed at those who pay their respects at dead soldiers on this thread. Sorry, some of us are proud that some kids from council estates decide to earn shitty wages to serve in the armed forces. Some of them don't come back on their feet.

Some of us think that's pretty significant, never mind the politics of the idiots who decided to waste their lives (cf. Basra, Helmand province and the other recent defeats of the British Army by third world farmers)

Never mind, back to the sneering in 3, 2, 1...
posted by Hugh Routley at 1:17 PM on November 28, 2011


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