Centenary of the Armistice

Part of Assessment and Treatment Units: Vulnerable People – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 3:30 pm, 6th November 2018

Those words put it well. It is evident in all the commemorations we have witnessed how much of what was done and sacrificed by those who fought was done in fellowship for those they went to fight with. I agree with my hon. Friend.

After the service of remembrance this year, we will give our thanks for the end of the war and show our support for those who returned. The traditional Royal British Legion parade of veterans will this year be followed by an additional procession of 10,000 members of the public paying personal tribute and giving thanks to the generation who served then. The procession will be complemented in the afternoon by the nationwide ringing of bells, across the UK, and throughout the rest of the world, echoing the bells that rang out after many years of silence 100 years ago. In the evening there will be a national service of reflection and thanksgiving in Westminster abbey, with similar services taking place across the UK. This will be a moving and inspiring day that will unite us all.

I am sure we will hear plenty more reflections on these events during this debate. Many people have been involved in making these commemorations a success: charities, including, of course, the Royal British Legion; civil society groups; officials from across the Government, including, in particular, those from my Department; and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They all deserve our thanks and congratulations. I would also like to thank the first world war advisory group for its guidance throughout this process. I want to make special mention of my hon. Friend Dr Murrison, who has acted throughout this period as the Prime Minister’s special representative for the first world war. I hope the House will hear from him this afternoon, and I think it true to say these commemorations would not have had the same shape and resonance as they have had without his considerable efforts. I would also like to pay tribute to the work of Dan Jarvis, whom I am also delighted to see in his place this afternoon. I know he has also been passionate in wanting these commemorations to have the widest possible reach.

The first world war started more than a century ago, yet these commemorations have brought that war to life in ways that feel tangible and within our grasp. It is so important that future generations have the opportunity to hear these stories. This was a war not about monarchs or generals, but about people like us. In fact, 264 Members of this House served in that war, 22 of whom were killed. We remember the remarkable challenges faced by all those who fought, but we also remember that they came from our cities, towns and villages. They were people like us, and that should give us hope, as well as pride and sadness, because in those whom we remember, we see the huge capacity for service, for sacrifice, in people just like us, just when history needed it. They went off to war with friends and neighbours and workmates, or contributed in other ways, not because they thought they were special, but because they thought they were ordinary. They did what they thought everyone did for their country in its hour of need, but we remember them, and honour them, 100 years later, not because we know they were ordinary but because we know they were special.

Over the past four years, we have done our best to remember them all. I believe that we have done it well and that we can be proud not just of the people whom we have remembered, but of the way in which we have remembered them, and this House, and this nation, will always remember them.