Once again we celebrated Nelson’s victory at the Hope, Smithfield. A full hearty English breakfast for a full hearty English hero. Ten patriots turned up and are served by fair ladies from Italy, Greece and Spain. This year we are also remembering the sacrifice of our grandfathers in the 14-18.
The employment lawyer tells of his uncles who fought together in the Sherwood Foresters one surviving the trenches the other being killed while in a rest area. The travel writer tells of his father coming across a German spiked helmet on the hills of Assam. The international lawyer tells of his French in laws owning the propeller from a plane which flew over those endless trenches. The market research executive tol of the strange role of Bulgaria. I tell of my grandfather,the Bombay Grenadier, fighting in Africa and Palestine and share some of “humorous “ cartoons from that period.
The banker led us through the seven Naval toasts. Absent Friends .Our Ships at Sea. Our men. Ourselves. A bloody war or a sickly season. A willing foe and sea room.Wives and sweathearts (may they never meet).
The economist reminded us how Nelson lost his eye at Calvi and the banker told us how the figurehead on the Victory lost an arm and a leg.
The grace was short and simple “WE thank you for our meat and gravy But most of all for Nelson’s Navy”
Later on a few of us went on to the see the poppies at The Tower. 800,000 ceramic poppies are in place until November 11 and the crowds are flocking to see this magnificent monument to the fallen. They flow down the Tower’s battlements like a waterfall of petals and then they rest like the men they represent.
As with the endless rows of crosses in the French cemeteries, it is the numbers, the row after row stretching beyond comprehension and imagination which bring home the awful ghost of the Lost Generation
We remember that each coffin that came home from Afghanistan was treated with reverence. In 1914-18 there were days when there were 10000 coffins a day-if the bodies could be found. My drinking club the Winchester House has brought three of the poppies to represent the three members on the art nouveau war memorial in the hall. Lest we forget.
The breakfast ended with a photo taken of the company wearing Nelson masks from the National Portrait Gallery . Three cheers. None like us. Unlike the poppies we are growing old. Disgracefully I hope.