We Will Never Forget

At 11am on the 11th of November people around the country paused in silence to remember the sacrifice of those who have fallen in the service of our country.

This has been a particularly poignant year of remembrance.

In June we remembered that it was 70 years since the Allies laid siege to the Normandy beaches as part of the D-Day landings.

In August we commemorated 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.

In September we reflected on 70 years since the Allies launched Operation Market Garden – an airborne operation in to Holland.

And in October the Union flag was lowered for the final time in Camp Bastion, as we ended our long and difficult operational commitment in Afghanistan.

So this period of remembrance now gives us an important opportunity to reflect and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice – our Service men and women who lost their lives so that we can enjoy our freedom.

But the period of remembrance is not just about remembering the fallen. We should also think about their families and the impact war has had upon them.

Recently I met the brother of someone from Barnsley who was killed in Afghanistan. He told me that it meant a lot to his family that people in Barnsley take the period of remembrance so seriously – that they treat it with reverence. Despite the grief the family have suffered and the pain they have endured, they are comforted by that fact that across our town there are thousands of people who turn out on Remembrance Sunday to pay their respects to the fallen.

Earlier this year I travelled to the Somme in Northern France to pay my respects to those soldiers who came from Barnsley and lost their lives during the First World War.

I stood in the trenches they had defended. I imagined the terror they must have experienced. The piercing shrill of the whistle signalling the advance and the order to go ‘over the top’.

I walked the ground over which they had fought. Open rolling countryside that has changed little over the past century.

I knelt in front of their graves. It felt like they were a long way from home.

It was a sobering experience.

But what has been heartening is the level of interest and generosity from people locally who support the service charities and in particular the Royal British Legion poppy appeal which ensures we commemorate the service and sacrifice of all of those who have fallen and all those who continue to serve.

Regardless of our own views on the rights and wrongs of the various conflicts, it was no surprise that we had a huge turn out across the town on Sunday. People came together to think about those who marched off from Barnsley nearly 100 years ago to serve in the trenches, those who would do the same in the Second World War and all those who have served and fallen since.

In this important year of remembrance, I know we will remember them all.

This article was first published in the Barnsley Independent on 12th November 2014.