It is a great honour to represent my party in this debate. I simply thank all the speakers across the House who have made some truly magnificent speeches.
Mr Speaker, may I take you north to the Cromarty Firth, beneath the waters of which lies the wreck of HMS Natal, a heavy cruiser and the pride of the Royal Navy during the first world war? On
My grandfather’s elder brother, Arthur Stone, joined up in 1914. By 1917, he was oddly enough in a Pals battalion as a major and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry. It was a matter of great family pride when he went to collect it from Buckingham Palace with his parents. But I now turn to my grandfather’s youngest brother, Walter Stone, also known as Wally, who was a bit of a tearaway. Before the war, he had fathered a child out of wedlock in Canada—something that did not become evident until quite recently, although my father had long suspected that there had been something like that lurking in the background.
Wally also joined up in 1914, going into the Royal Fusiliers. By 1917, he was a captain. On
To return to the present in the short time available, on Sunday I shall lay a wreath in my home town of Tain in the northern highlands. There will be a parade from the Church of Scotland parish church to St Duthus church, where the war memorial is located. I dare say that it will probably be a cold day. For all I know, the wind could be in the north, coming straight from the Arctic, and may be seasoned with a dash of sleet. That is all part of the job of laying a wreath in the highlands. I have done this for many years, and each time I go into the church where the memorial is and read the names on the plaque, it is the nature of the highlands that I recognise so many of the families, who are still living in the area. And that is what I shall think about.
I think about the past, what my great uncles did and what my father told me. He was a man who always wore a poppy. He told me that, when he came down from the highlands to work in London in the 1930s, the whole city would fall silent at the stroke of 11 o’clock—that people would stop in the street for the two minutes’ silence. He told me how extraordinarily moving it was, and that memory stayed with him. I did not know my great uncles, but I knew and loved my father, who fought in the second world war in the 14th Army, and on Sunday I shall think of him. Let me just put it this way: he wore a poppy and so do I, with some pride.