This year sees the centenary of the end of the Great War and has renewed our focus on the sacrifice that was made by so many millions of men then, and which are still made today by those that serve in our Armed Forces. Remembrance Sunday in Chesterfield has grown over the last few years, with an increase in events and a real feeling of the town coming together to honour those who have given their life for their country.
There are numerous important documentaries and articles regarding the Great War and it is important that, as the events pass from living memory, we never forget the catastrophic conflict the world went through and hopefully ensure it never happens again. The War cost the lives of 10 million soldiers worldwide, including 886,000 British military personnel, and almost 7 million civilians. And whilst we remember those who served, on this centenary the Royal British Legion is asking us to thank the entire First World War generation, commemorating not just those who fought and died on the battlefield but all of those who played their part on the home front and those that returned to build a better future for generations to come.
It is also important that whilst we recognise the contribution that has been made in the past, we also support today’s generation of Servicemen and women. The Armed Forces are not in the news as much lately as there are no major conflicts that we are currently engaged in, but our personnel are still in service across the world, spending months away from their families and maintaining a level of preparedness and professionalism to ensure they are always ready to step into action in our defence.
As an MP, and as Chair of Labour Friends of the Forces, it is my duty to ensure that the interests of the defence community are at the very top of Parliament’s priorities and to ensure that our Armed Forces’ personnel and veterans are getting the recognition that they deserve.
This is the main reason that I signed up to Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which I proudly ‘graduated’ from last month. I and several colleagues volunteered to spend a minimum of 15 days in a year witnessing our Armed Forces in action. The scheme is designed to increase the knowledge base of MPs about Service life and give serving soldiers, sailors and Airmen the opportunity to question MPs too. Over the last couple of years I have spent time in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) taking part in battle ready exercises and seeing what it is like setting up camp out in the field. I also spent time with the Navy, sailing to Amsterdam on a Type 23 frigate, HMS Sutherland and on our new destroyers, as well as witnessing the new Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Though these trips could never replicate a long term life in the Forces, it did give me a good idea of the conditions our Armed Forces have to live in, how they feel about their roles and learning about why people join and leave our Armed Forces.
In Chesterfield, I am always proud of the effort, pride and community spirit on Remembrance Sunday. You may have already seen the cascade of poppies adorning the town hall and other public buildings, presenting a powerful public reminder of this important occasion and put together through the hard work of many volunteers and contributors from across the borough.
There will be numerous events in Chesterfield over the next few days to mark the Centenary and I hope that you will be able to join me at one. I will be speaking at the Festival of Remembrance at the Winding Wheel on 8th November at 7pm, I will be joining the Staveley Annual Remembrance Day Parade and Service on Sunday 11th November at 10am, before joining the Borough Council’s ‘Service of Remembrance’ at 2.30pm when I will lay a wreath at the War Memorial on Rose Hill.
I hope that whilst we stop and take time to remember the fallen from the Great War, that we also think about our servicemen and women who are serving today and I resolve to always fight their corner in Parliament.