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As a child I spent many weekends watching those famous Second World War films – Guns of Navarone, A Bridge Too Far, The Cruel Sea, and so on. Now, one of the great things about my job is you get to meet all sorts of amazing people and be involved in all sorts of unusual things. This Saturday, Wakefield commemorates another war scene made into a famous film as we mark the eightieth anniversary of the Dambusters Raid in May 1943.
Remarkably, three of the air crew from this raid came from our own city, and some of their family members, together with representatives of local government and the RAF, will gather to honour their memories at the Cenotaph. Sergeant Wilfred Ibbotson, who is honoured on the war memorial at St Andrew’s Netherton where my wife is parish priest, died in the raid; Flight Sergeant William Hatton and Pilot Officer Cyril Anderson were killed in action later in 1943. This local connection to an historic event makes me wonder what other amazing people might be right on our doorsteps, what other extraordinary history right under our noses?
Now, there can be a range of reasonable views about war, about the rights and wrongs of particular conflicts or particular actions within a conflict. There is a noble tradition of Christian non-violence; the church has sometimes too readily supported wars to pursue wrong aims; the just war tradition offers a thoughtful Christian perspective on military action.
But whatever our views, it’s really fascinating these links with history right here in our own communities. And we can all, perhaps, pray for those who serve in the armed forces, for courage and professionalism and decency in all they are asked to do. We can pray, too, for those who bear the scars of conflicts past and present, and all those who suffer in the shadow of war today, not least in Ukraine.
With prayers and best wishes,
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