Speech Benoit Mottrie, Chairman of the Last Post Association
During the war, one of the few elements of light relief in the often hellish lives of the soldiers was their singing. They sang behind the lines. They sang as they marched. On occasions, they even sang in the trenches. One of their most iconic songs was “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. It was a sardonic joke, a full-throated hymn of defiance against death. “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here.”
But underlying that song there is a question: a question, stark in its simplicity, to which the song itself offers no answer: why were they here? It is a question that we can equally ask of ourselves today. Why are we here? Why do we come back to this monument, day after day, month after month, year after year?
Well, in the first place, we are here because they were here.
We are here because they fought and died, often in conditions of great suffering.
We are here because we believe that this unimaginable sacrifice was made for us.
We are here because we believe that this sacrifice, for all its horror and tragedy, did ultimately make the world a better place, a place in which we can still live in freedom and prosperity.
We are here because we believe in the values men fought for: justice, liberty, independence, the right to choose freely and the right to say what we think, without fear or favour.
We are here because we cherish peace and because we hope, through their example, that no such sacrifice will ever be needed again.
Last but not least, we are here simply to remember, because what those brave men and women achieved 100 years ago deserves never to be forgotten.
We are here, then, for all these reasons, and perhaps for others that are more personal to each of us. And that is why will be back again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. For as long as we can and for as long as is necessary. ‘Until heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee…’