Centenary of the Armistice

Part of Assessment and Treatment Units: Vulnerable People – in the House of Commons at 5:07 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 5:07 pm, 6th November 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Sir Paul Beresford and so many eloquent speeches from the Front Benches of the Government, Her Majesty’s Opposition and the SNP. The SNP spokesman, Martin Docherty-Hughes, spoke about port communities and in some of my speech I wish to concentrate on those communities.

As has been said, the great war, world war one, impacted on every community in our country. Every town, village and city were affected. The seafaring communities were very badly affected. Like many others, the seafaring community that I am proud to represent had service personnel in the battlefields, but they also guarded our trade links, which carried people, goods and service personnel during the great war, and indeed in subsequent wars.

The greatest loss of life on the Irish sea during the great war was on 10 October 1918, when the RMS Leinster left Dún Laoghaire, then Kingstown, carrying His Royal Highness’s mail to Holyhead in my constituency and was sunk just a few yards from the port of Dún Laoghaire. Among those who perished were children, crew members and service personnel from the Commonwealth—from New Zealand, Australia and Canada—and from the United States of America.

That vessel was carrying out its normal duty of moving people and the royal mail across the Irish sea. Many of the 500 who died had been just carrying out their normal duties; they were seafarers. They were given an exemption from going to war because of the essential duties that they carried out, keeping our sea links open. The tragedy unites the Irish community, the British community and the Welsh community. I am proud today to wear poppies from Ireland and Wales. On 10 October, we had a special commemoration in Ireland and Wales for the loss of those 500 people, and I met their families. It is right that Members have spoken about survivors and the families of the survivors, because those communities and families have been scarred by the great war. It was a tragedy.