Last week I laid into the Beeb for breaking the fundamental rules on reporting. This week I stand up for the way the Corporation reported the nation’s Remembrance ceremonies. It was the state broadcaster at its best, not mawkish or sentimental like some ghastly Disneyfied tear-jerking sitcom, but displaying respectful emotion with meaning and purpose.
For me, one of the most important stories on bbc.co.uk during this poignant week was ‘Where they fell’.
From this piece I discovered that 763 soldiers died in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998. In the first and second Gulf Wars (1990-1991 and 2003-2009) 226 soldiers were killed – less than one third of those who fell in Ulster. As I write, 343 soldiers have been killed so far as a result of the war in Afghanistan.
In WWI total deaths were around eight million. Britain’s military war dead was some 885,000 souls – including 97 generals (in contrast to the erroneous perception created by the funny though historically flawed Black Adder series). These deaths amounted to 2.19 per cent of the population at that time.
Total deaths in WWII were close to 50 million. British losses of 384,000 equated to just under one per cent of the population.
I’m no accountant but numbers are important for gaining a sense of truth and perspective. On their own they can even tell a story well.