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First World War (Commemoration)

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 26th June 2014.

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Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence) 2:22 pm, 26th June 2014

Indeed. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. I urge people who come to London and visit the tower to go to see the memorial, particularly this year or during the coming four years.

Interestingly, the war coincided with the amalgamation of three towns—Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse—into what we now know as the city of Plymouth. It was as Plymouth that citizens rallied around to support the troops and to care for the injured. Some 120,000 soldiers mobilised out of Plymouth in just four days between 5 and 9 August. Like many other cities, we had Pals regiments.

I again thank the Plymouth Herald and local historians for drawing my attention to the Plymouth Argyle players who enlisted. Jack Cock earned the military medal for bravery in the field. At one stage, he was pronounced missing presumed dead, but, fortunately for his family and for the club, that was not the case. He went on to score 72 league goals, as well as to play for England. I am sure that the current Green Army are very proud of their club’s players, and of their bravery and sacrifice.

Many schools in the city were converted for a range of uses, including as hospitals, and the city saw the return of injured Australians from the dreadful battle of Gallipoli, as well as the opening of a hospital specifically for US servicemen. Troops from across the empire—from Canada, India and New Zealand—set off from Plymouth, and we should remember the sacrifices of those men alongside those of other allies.

Such a wealth of information on which to draw gives us a very varied picture of what happened and of how individuals responded to the dreadful challenges they faced and the sights they witnessed. I was therefore a little surprised to read an article sent by my great-uncle, Lieutenant Ward that was printed in the Romford Recorder, because he gave it very much warts and all; there was no censorship. He described feeling happy to be alive but went on in graphic detail to describe the shelling of his trench and wrote about a private

“wild-eyed, white and haggard looking, plastered with mud asking for urgent help for the ‘Durhams’ who have got it.”

He also talked about the bravery and calmness of the stretcher bearers, and particularly about a Corporal Swain, a man from Cornwall. It is therefore interesting that when I was on a walk along the cliffs at Pentire point in Cornwall, I came across a plaque which reads:

For the Fallen

Composed on these cliffs, 1914”.

The words by Laurence Binyon have already been mentioned, but they are worth repeating:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”