There would have been some excitement leading up to the Sunday event when the poppy sellers would arrive at school; a rare but welcome disruption to the routine.
Pocket money would be quickly invested and a paper poppy attached to our uniform. By the end of each playtime, the playground would be awash with the fallen symbols. I was too young to have appreciated the poetic nature of that piece of unintended littering.
Back to the day itself, this being the late 1970s, my memory is of standing and watching veterans file by in what felt like their hundreds. I’ve often assumed this was my memory playing tricks on me.
But my father remembers the same thing.
A soldier of 25 when the Second World War ended in 1945 would only be in their late fifties by that point. It’s entirely possible – although my memory is not sufficient to recall – several soldiers who fought in the Great War would have walked past too. Almost certain, in fact.
The parade was a significant event, and you felt a tangible sense of being in the company of those who fought in a conflict portrayed heavily in the comics and films of the day.
The military marching through crowds of onlookers was a powerful statement. It still is today.
I’d been told of how many had been conscripted to fight – a concept which, I can’t deny, terrified the young me. The thought of being taken from the comfort of home and forced to fight on the killing fields of foreign lands was one I could – and continue to this day – to agonisingly empathise with.
There was, however, no sense of the hero worship which appears all the rage towards our professional armed forces today. But back then the British Army was mired in the violence of Northern Ireland – a less glamorous theatre of conflict it would be hard to imagine. The plight of the veteran was rarely discussed. They were different times.
This weekend, however, it will be clear as to how the world has moved on and perceptions changed.
Those veterans of the First World War are no more; all of them have passed on. Those who fought in the Second World War are few and far between.
It’s a sobering thought. I had no idea, all those years ago stood by my father’s side, of the historic generations parading before me in front of the Town Hall.
At my local village Remembrance Day event this year, the parade will consist – almost exclusively – of children drawn from all the traditional youth groups.
The Scouts, Cubs, Girl Guides, Brownies and what have you, will all look resplendent in their uniforms marching behind perhaps a small group of veterans from what, today, are the more modern of conflicts. Proud, professional soldiers.
The hundreds – and there will, come rain or shine be such numbers – gathered to pay their respects will all have their own reasons to be there. From personal loss to empathy with those young innocents who were ripped from their homes to die on battlefields all those many, many years ago.
It would be easy to say the parades of today do not carry such clout as those in the past when survivors of the two world wars would march past. But, surely, it is hugely fitting the stream of marching men who witnessed such horror is today replaced by children who have been spared such scenes courtesy of our ancestors’ bravery? And that those who have served have a network of professional and community support on which they can rely.