Centenary of the Armistice

Part of Assessment and Treatment Units: Vulnerable People – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Chair, Administration Committee 5:02 pm, 6th November 2018

Now that I have said about three words, it is obvious that I have dual nationality, so I want to support those who have mentioned the Commonwealth. When Britain is under attack, here or elsewhere, the formidable troops of the Commonwealth nations rally to help. In world war one, some, such as the New Zealanders, came from so far away that if they had gone any further they would have been going back. For some nations there is a huge kith and kin bond, whereas for others it is predominately the Commonwealth link, with some kith and kin. The second group includes the Caribbean, the Maoris, the Pacific islanders and India—we must bear in mind that India in 1914 included Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. As we are well aware, the kith and kin nations are, in the main, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. My grandparents’ generation in New Zealand and Australia were the world war one generation. I remember them talking fondly of the UK as home, even if they had never been here, unless they came to fight.

In world war one, the troops from those Commonwealth nations were at the forefront, volunteering to fight for Britain. For many of those nations, I found that the figures were unreliable, but millions of Commonwealth men came. Mostly they fought in the Army, but many fought in the Navy, and some in the fledging air forces. Their losses were huge and they were heartbreaking. Again, I found the figures to be unreliable, but one source said that the Canadians lost just over 50% of their troops, the Australians 50% and the New Zealanders about 60%. There is, as has just been mentioned, recognition of their bravery—something in excess of 170 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Commonwealth soldiers.

We in the United Kingdom have Remembrance Sunday. Australia and New Zealand have Anzac Day derived from the appalling Gallipoli battles. Equally, I understand that the Canadian equivalent derives from the Battle of Vimy Ridge.