09 November 2015

All gave some, some gave all - Remembrance Day in Scottish football

by Calvin Campbell | Contributor

As the stands emptied once more at Ibrox Park and the fans made tracks for home, I’m sure that the lasting impressions left upon them on Saturday will extend beyond the clinical performance played out before them by an invigorated Rangers. 

The football was a beautiful sight to behold, but so too were the excellent Remembrance displays orchestrated before kick-off in both the Sandy Jardine and Broomloan stands.

The Rangers faithful have always strongly supported the annual Remembrance Day occasion and also the brave men and women enlisted in our military all year round. There is always a great sense of poignancy when the coloured cards are held aloft, turning the blue sea of Ibrox red, white and black in the name of the few, who are owed so much by so many. 

Once more, the minute’s silence was observed impeccably, no less than one should expect from a club with values like those held by Rangers FC.

Remembrance Day memorials began in the United Kingdom in 1919, the year after the bloodiest conflict in human history up until that point had ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The signing of the Armistice by the defeated Germany brought an end to a war which left over a million British men dead and over one and a half million wounded. 

Of these, around one hundred thousand were Scots.

Virtually every single community up and down the country was brutally scarred by the effects of the war. On a national level, Britain lost it’s lead as the world’s foremost economic powerhouse, due to huge depletions in manpower and finance manifested by the war effort. Soldiers returned from years of battle in gory trench warfare to abject poverty and unemployment, as the Government failed to deliver on its promise to create a country ‘fit for heroes’. 

It was the largest loss of life ever experienced in a single conflict and the aftermath of the Great War has had a massive bearing on the way British society has evolved.Rangers bore witness to the tragedy of war, with one current and three former players making the ultimate sacrifice whilst eight were wounded in action. More information on Rangers players and others associated with the club who fought in WW1 can be found here, compiled by fellow CRO contributor Gary Havlin.

Other teams also lost loyal servants, perhaps most commonly known being the sixteen Hearts players who enlisted in McCrae’s Battalion at a time when the club was comfortably leading the First Division. Many were never to return.

It is all very well looking at statistics, but the sheer horror of war must be remembered on a personal level too. Thousands upon thousands of those sent away to fight were mere teenagers, the vast majority leaving their hometown for the first time. A portion of today’s youngsters are reluctant to do a day’s work, never mind set off to an unknown land to engage in armed battle with an unknown enemy. 

Placing yourself in the shoes of a young volunteer almost doesn’t bear thinking about and it is due to the sacrifice of men of this ilk that we owe thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in the present day.

Bearing these facts and figures in mind and the obvious impact the war had on football, it comes as no surprise that the observance of a minute’s silence prior to fixtures in the UK on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday has become a tradition, along with the wearing of a poppy on the team jersey. 

Rangers as a club and support participate willingly and vibrantly in both traditions, and thanks to displays such as those on show today are widely regarded throughout British football as being among the most respectful of observers. The same can be said for ninety-nine percent of other teams throughout the land, however, in an increasingly evident manner as the years pass, one exception to this established rule belligerently refuses to adhere.

I talk of course about Celtic Football Club. Normally, the happenings at this club make no mark upon my life. I tend to ignore any news about them and even more so the thoughts and opinions of their support. However their continued tarnishing of the memory of the fallen brings me to comment on this aspect of their psyche.

The catalogue of indictments from the modern era begin in 2009, when Celtic faced Falkirk away from home. The stadium tannoy announcer read a short eulogy to the dead and injured, leading the crowd in attendance into the minute’s silence. Almost immediately after referee Brain Winter had blown his whistle to mark the beginning of the silence, a group of Celtic supporters became clearly audible on television recordings, belting out Irish republican songs in clear defiance of the occasion. 

Despite TV audio crews efforts to drown out these morons, the raucous retaliation from the home support following the end of the silence told everyone all they needed to know. The solitary moment in time marked out every year as a time for reflection upon the sacrifices of others in our name had been desecrated in a most vile way, lyrics in support of an organisation who killed over seven hundred British military personnel replacing an atmosphere of sombre remembrance.

The following year saw an even larger number of Celtic fans participate in a visible display of defiance. A banner created by the overtly republican fans group, the Green Brigade, was unfurled prior to kick off in a fixture against Aberdeen at Celtic Park, reading ‘No Bloostained (sic) Poppy on
Our Hoops’. The wording of the statement makes allusion to the attitude of this group towards the British military – they regard them as warmongers and criminals.

As recently as last season, a vociferous contingent of the travelling Celtic support at Pittodrie spoiled the minute’s silence, again chanting pro-IRA bile and once more being met with derision by their opposition counterparts. It seems that making a statement during the observing of Remembrance Day has become some kind of twisted tradition among a section of the Celtic support and their decision to do so generates negative headlines on a now annual basis.

But why do these Celtic fans do this? Why are they so vehemently opposed to a mark of respect for those who gave their lives so that we could make the most of ours? It is difficult to summarise such a complex issue in an article, however this specific behaviour is evidently connected to the anti-British feeling which permeates the Celtic support.

As we all know, Celtic are a club who proudly promote their Irish heritage, having been formed originally as a beneficial society for underprivileged Catholics living in 19th Century Glasgow, a community in which many families had migrated from Ireland as a result of the Great Potato Famine.

Throughout the years, the club and it’s fans have remained closely connected to these roots and as a result of this, throughout the Troubles in Northern Ireland those of a Celtic persuasion have largely aligned themselves with the republican community in Ulster, expressing distaste for all things British, especially the Queen and our Armed Forces.

Further to this, the imagery fantasised by some Celtic supporters which depicts the IRA as brave freedom fighters battling against state oppression has led to this group taking a supposed interest in numerous perceived ‘revolutionary’ movements throughout the world. The sight of Argentinian guerrilla leader Che Guevara is common at Celtic Park, alongside flags of Palestine, a territory with which this section of fans believe the country of Ireland possesses many shared characteristics. On the other hand, they view the British Government as imperialists who deployed forces to Ireland in order to occupy, rather than protect.

This political evolution of the Celtic support has created a sizeable portion of fans who now identify more closely with Ireland than the country where the vast majority have been born and raised. This diluted analysis provides the main reasoning behind these fans’ disdain for Remembrance Day – the occasion is a bastion of British history, tradition and values, an absolute abhorrence for those who follow the convoluted and twisted thought process I have laid bare.

There are numerous factors as to why this blatant disrespect is not only distasteful, but utterly idiotic at the same time. Despite the club most certainly possessing Irish roots, we must not forget that they are Scottish. The majority of modern day Celtic fans are Scottish through and through, with many who stand proclaiming Ireland’s sovereignty most likely having never set foot upon her shores.

These people have been born, raised, fed, clothed and educated in Britain and are looked after when they are unwell by it’s free NHS. The British state provides for these people, even though they surrender their allegiances to a foreign nation – and they gladly accept these comfy trappings which come with being born in such a developed country.

Without the sacrifice of those whose memories they so eagerly wish to tarnish, it is doubtful as to whether or not these features of Britain which we have come to depend on would have been maintained. Our present day society bears many hallmarks of the effects of war and the fact that we have been able to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down is the main reason as to why Remembrance is observed in the first place. These noisy Celtic fans ought to think about this before ordering our military to ‘go on home’.

Not only this, but there are countless Celtic fans who proudly serve in the United Kingdom’s military. The majority of average, decent Celtic supporters are respectful of Remembrance, however, the sizeable portion of imbeciles who are not directly vocalise against some members of their own support. This standpoint lacks credibility on such an enormous level, it is almost impossible to comprehend how so many people believe in this anti-British ideology so vehemently.

Bringing us back to the present day, many commentators argue that Rangers merely put so much effort into observing Remembrance Day in order to show Celtic in a bad light. Funnily enough, those making such comments tend to be of a Celtic persuasion. It is my opinion that our tasteful and poignant ceremonies are a culmination of not only the shared values of the club, but of the shared values of the overwhelming majority of British society. 

There would be no bad light for Celtic to be caught in if their supporters simply behaved with even the slightest modicum of awareness or respect, however, we have witnessed too many occasions now which tell us that their approach to the subject is unlikely to change.

Indeed, just yesterday some of their fans could not stay silent for one minute before the game against Ross County.

Nevertheless, these few hundred are a small drop in the ocean. At 11am every Remembrance morning, millions of others pay homage to those who didn’t come home. And long may that tradition last.


by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lest We Forget.