Remembrance message 2013

The period of Remembrance gives us a collective focal point to remember.

To remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice – those who lost their lives so that we can enjoy our freedom. It’s as important today as ever it was before.

10 years ago this week I was serving in Iraq. 5 years ago this week I was serving in Afghanistan. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the time I spent in those places. The challenges I faced, the friendships that were forged, but above all – I remember the comrades that were lost and the lives that were changed as a result.

This year we still have our Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan and it is right that we pause to reflect on their service and the risks they are still taking on our behalf. They have been doing a very difficult job under extremely demanding circumstances. They have done so in the best traditions of our Armed Forces.

Our Armed Forces have served our country around the world. They have faced hardship and danger, but have always done so with that amazing ability to retain a sense of humour, however difficult the situation, however black the moment.

Regardless of the campaign – whether it was World War 1, World War 2, Korea, Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Iraq or in Afghanistan today, we as a country have a duty – an obligation not only to educate the next generation about the costs of conflict, but to pause over the period of Remembrance to reflect on the service and the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We do so this year, mindful of what has gone on before but also in knowing that we will face further challenges in the future, when our Armed Forces will again be tested and those who serve will be asked to take great risks in order to keep us safe.

But the period of Remembrance is not just about remembering the fallen. We should also pause to think about their families and the impact conflict has had on them. This week my thoughts will also be with the families of those who have lost family members in conflict. I pay tribute to the dignity with which they carry their burden. They are an example and an inspiration to us all.

Next year will see us commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War 1 and around the country we will come together to remember the lives that were lost and the sacrifices that were made. The 100th anniversary is a significant milestone and provides an important opportunity for young and old to learn about that episode in our history.

I spoke about this in the House of Commons this week.

I described how both Barnsley Pals battalions were part of the attack on Serre on the first day of the Somme campaign. I said that; “on that one day, 1st July 1916, the 1st Battalion of the Barnsley Pals lost 275 men, while the 2nd Battalion lost 270 men.” I struggled to speak those words.

I ended my speech in Parliament by saying:

“It is now comforting to know that what were once landscapes of war
Are now landscapes of peace.
WW1 is no longer a war of memory – it is now a war in history and it is our solemn responsibility to ensure that we remember and honour those men and women who have laid down their lives for our country, and that Madam Deputy Speaker that is what we will do.”

So this year, like last year, let’s make sure that the sacrifice of the fallen will never be forgotten.