Ex UK Army man is making efforts to keep Remembrance Day relevant to the youth

Nov 12, 2017, 08:12 IST | Anju Maskeri

It's a Friday afternoon when we meet former (British) Army man and banker Roddy Sale at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, better known as the Afghan Church, in Colaba. "On Sunday, the Indian Navy Buglers of the 7th Sikh Battalion will start playing the pipes and drums from here," he tells us pointing to the area near the entrance. For the last four years, Sale, the chairman of the Ex-Services' Association, has been helming the Annual Remembrance Service at the church. The memorial service in India is an old custom, one that has lived on since 1847, after the end of WWI.

Roddy Sale at the Afghan Church, Colaba. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Roddy Sale at the Afghan Church, Colaba. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Seeing war from up close
Sale, who was born and educated in Eton, London, joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, when he was 18. He served in Northern Ireland that saw bouts of political violence. He recalls, "But, it was only in 1982, that I encountered the horrors of war when Argentina invaded Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. The combat with the army lasted eight weeks. A part of my contingent was on a boat when it was bombed by the Argentine armed forces. I lost 34 comrades."

As hardship laden his military career may have been, it also gave him a chance to dine with England's Queen. "Early into my army days, I was put on guard duty at the Buckingham Palace. During the winters, it was customary for guards to be invited to dinner by the Queen. So, I ended up dining with the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Diana at least six times."

In 1987, Sale quit the army to pursue a career in banking and moved to India. "Unlike in India, where people in the armed forces serve for a long period of time, in the UK, it's commonly not more than three to four years. And then, you move on to a different profession," he says.

Making sacrifices count
Sale, as part of the Ex-Services' Association, supports the welfare of 12 families of Indian war veterans by providing them with a monthly income of Rs 4,000. "After the war, the British demobilised the army men and told them to go back to their original professions. So, those men were not eligible for a state pension," he explains.

As the number of people who actually remember the World War pass away, Sale's challenge is to make it relevant to the youth. He recently attended a Remembrance Day performance at GD Somani School in Cuffe Parade. "I don't want kids to treat it as something for oldies. It's important to explain to people the sacrifices that were made which led to a free country."

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