For an ex-British Army soldier like myself, there are two sites that I consider to be sacred: the grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, and the Cenotaph, a few hundred feet away in Whitehall.
Seeing yesterday's protesters desecrating the Cenotaph, ground that has been "consecrated by the tears of many mothers" was disturbing. It upset me not only because of my background, or because I have been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, but because defiling Britain's national site of remembrance does nothing to advance the need for racial justice in the United States.
And it is not the first time that this has happened...
Since writing my book, The Flag, I have expressed my belief that it is the public's right to be able to have access to the grave of the Unknown Warrior to pay their respects as they always have been able to do at the Cenotaph.
I have been told by Westminster Abbey that the public can gain access to the grave for this sole purpose. But it has to be booked in advance, and the public is largely unaware beleiving they have to pay the £24 entrance fee. I had even considered writing to the Dean this summer before the centennial to ask that the public be allowed to pay their respects in the abbey as they did a hundred years ago this November. Now, I'm not so sure.
I'm glad that the protesters in Whitehall yesterday were not able to defile the grave of the Unknown Warrior as they had the Cenotaph. Perhaps it is time that a permanent fence is erected around it, or access to Whitehall is restricted so that there can never be a repeat of what happened yesterday. Although the Cenotaph is a secular and non-denominational monument, many who have stood in silence or marched past it believe it is sacred ground and should be protected.