Centenary of the Armistice

Part of Assessment and Treatment Units: Vulnerable People – in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton 6:55 pm, 6th November 2018

It is a great honour to speak and to listen to so many moving speeches today, including the excellent speech by Brendan O’Hara, and to be able to pay tribute to so many Thirsk and Malton constituents of yesteryear, including in my home town of Easingwold, where it is my great privilege to lay a wreath on Sunday and pay tribute to all those who gave so much in the great war and to the sacrifices of their loved ones, their friends, their families.

Even 100 years later, every family is touched in some way by world war one. For the story I am about to tell, I should like to thank my relatives, Richard and Penny Booth, born Hollinrake, of Wells, Somerset. Some time ago, they wrote to me to tell of the incredible feats of Penny’s father, my grandfather’s brother, Ernest Hollinrake. It is a striking example of the millions of individual contributions on both sides of the conflict.

Ernest enlisted on 7 September 1914 alongside his pals in the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire), an infantry regiment. Defence of the realm against a foreign aggressor, of course, was every person’s duty. His “pals battalion” was known as the Lydgaters. Lydgate is a small village just outside Todmorden, West Yorkshire, where my family originate. Ernest was only 18 years old. His occupation: cotton operator in the local spinning mill.

There are few accounts of Ernest’s infantry service other than the official records, the first of which is three years into his service. During the third battle of Ypres, where 77,479 men were lost in the month of September alone, for his action on 20 September 1917, Second Lieutenant Ernest Hollinrake was awarded the Military Cross. The citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He…led (his platoon) forward under covering fire from Lewis guns and rifle grenades, and assaulted a strong point which he captured with thirty prisoners. His courage and determination were a splendid example to his platoon.”

Then, on 27 May 1918, near Rossignol Wood, in the northern part of the Somme, Ernest Hollinrake was awarded a bar to the Military Cross. The citation reads:

“When two of his front line posts were attacked by a strong hostile raiding party, and one section, greatly outnumbered, was overrun, he dashed up, leapt on the parapet, shot the enemy leader with his revolver, and led his men in a charge on the remainder, putting them to flight. By his great courage and promptness he undoubtedly saved his section, and prevented the enemy securing a much needed identity, and gained what proved a valuable one himself.”

In 1919, in an undated newspaper cutting with the heading, “Todmorden Military Honour”, the following was published:

“It is officially announced that the president of the French Republic has been pleased to confer the Croix de Guerre, with Palm on Lieut. Hollinrake of Todmorden…
He received his British decoration personally from the hand of His Majesty at Buckingham Palace a short time ago.”

He survived. Most of his pals did not. Ernest stayed in the army until 1922 and later went into business in Leeds. He was lucky by comparison to many.

I am not sure what advice Ernest or any of my fallen constituents would give us today if they were here to listen to this debate or to speak in it. Whatever the unforgivable mistakes and unthinkable atrocities of war, I am sure, at the end of the day, they would be able propose no other alternative than the last resort of being prepared to send our troops into the tragedies of war. Today, all we can do is salute them and all those who made so many sacrifices. Today and every day, we say, “Lest we forget.”

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15),

That, at this day’s sitting, the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister relating to the centenary of the Armistice may be proceeded with, though opposed, until 8.00pm.—(Iain Stewart.)

Question agreed to.

Debate resumed.

Main Question again proposed.