Remembrance Reflections

One hundred years ago, the news of the Armistice was celebrated on these shores and the First World War came to an end. It was a brutal war. Millions of lives were lost, countless families were torn apart and the world was never the same again. 

In writings and recordings, soldiers often struggled to articulate how they felt at the moment the guns stopped firing. They reported a mixture of joy, relief, numb disbelief, and grief.  But there was also, for many, a sense of achievement and justice at what they understandably regarded as a significant victory.

On Remembrance Sunday, I was at the Cenotaph in my capacity as Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Later, I attended a National Service of Reflection and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. These were hugely moving expressions of national solidarity but they were also opportunities, in the company of the German President, to give thanks for the end of a conflict that did immense damage on both sides.

Meanwhile, I was very grateful to Harry Dumper, Head Boy at Kenilworth School, for laying my wreath at the Kenilworth Remembrance service. Harry was selected to lay the wreath by the Headmaster, Hayden Abbott. As the years pass, the next generation will need to carry forward our legacy and ensure that we continue to remember the messages and lessons of the First World War. This is why I felt it fitting for a young person to lay my wreath, especially in this important year. 

Across the country, in addition to the events of Sunday, we have rightly seen a poignant programme of events this year to mark this important milestone in our history. In August, I was privileged to attend the moving commemoration of the Battle of Amiens at Amiens Cathedral, together with His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister and three thousand guests. Meanwhile, closer to home, it was an honour to be invited to open the excellent Armistice exhibition that was displayed at Kenilworth Library, as well as to re-open the Chapel of Unity at Coventry Cathedral after remedial work was completed following a grant of £870,000 from the Treasury's First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund. 

As we reflect on the tragedy of the war, I hope we can also pause to remember that, despite the horrors, there were also moments of hope and humanity. The famous football match of the 1914 Christmas Day truce is said to have started after a ball was kicked from the British lines into No Man's Land. For a short time, men from both sides - who could not otherwise communicate - shared a common language in the game. The goodwill would not last, however, and the horrors of war continued unabated. It was another four years until the war was over.

This year of all years, I am proud that we have remembered those who fought and those who fell, and done justice to their bravery. I am certain that, over the next 100 years and beyond, we will continue to remember them.

 

Picture:

I am pictured with Matthew Seward, Assistant Director Public Affairs and Public Policy for TRBL, where we are holding the logo of this years' RBL and Poppy Scotland 'Thank you' movement.

The 'Thank you' 100 campaign lead the nation is saying thank you to all those who served, sacrificed and changed our world. As well as marking the contribution and sacrifice of those in combat roles, it also marked the contribution of those at home and those who worked to rebuild society in Britain and all around the world following the conflict.