The gen­er­a­tions who gave all for vic­tory and to keep us safe

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

This is a time to unite to re­mem­ber im­mense sac­ri­fices, writes Gavin Wil­liamson

This year Re­mem­brance Sun­day falls on the cen­te­nary of the end of the First World War – one of the most sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments in our na­tion’s his­tory. One hun­dred years af­ter the guns fell silent on the Western Front, each and ev­ery one of us can pause to re­flect on the im­mense sac­ri­fices made by so many.

Ar­mistice Day is our op­por­tu­nity to show how much we value the gen­er­a­tion who gave ev­ery­thing for vic­tory – both those who paid the ul­ti­mate price and those who came home to re­build our fu­ture and the so­ci­ety we live in.

Yes­ter­day our Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter laid a wreath at the graves of John Parr, the first UK sol­dier to be killed in world war one, and the last, Ge­orge El­li­son, who was killed on the Western Front at 9.30am be­fore the Ar­mistice be­came ef­fec­tive at 11am. By co­in­ci­dence, they are buried op­po­site each other at the St Sym­phorien Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery in Mons in

Bel­gium.

Theresa May also joined Pres­i­dent Macron at the Thiep­val Me­mo­rial to the Miss­ing of the Somme to re­flect on our unique shared his­tory and lay spe­cial wreaths, com­bin­ing pop­pies and le bleuet, the two na­tional em­blems of re­mem­brance for Bri­tain and France.

The Ar­mistice gives us all an op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether in unity to re­mem­ber the im­mense sac­ri­fices made in war. The Ger­man Fed­eral Pres­i­dent Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier will join Theresa May in lay­ing wreaths at the Ceno­taph to­mor­row, mark­ing the first time a Ger­man leader will lay a wreath there, in an his­toric act of friend­ship. In this way, Ar­mistice also gives us the chance to join with our Ger­man friends to mark rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and the peace that ex­ists be­tween our two na­tions to­day.

Af­ter the Na­tional Ser­vice of Re­mem­brance in

White­hall, 10,000 descen­dants, fam­ily mem­bers, and the gen­eral pub­lic will march past the Ceno­taph as part of the Peo­ple’s Pro­ces­sion: our na­tion’s way of say­ing thank you.

At the same time, bells will ring out around the world. In 1918, as news of the Ar­mistice spread, church bells rang out in cel­e­bra­tion – hav­ing fallen silent across the UK since the out­break of war more than four years pre­vi­ously. The Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment, sup­ported by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, are invit­ing na­tions to ring bells of all kinds – church, mil­i­tary or oth­ers – to recre­ate this out­pour­ing of re­lief that the war was fi­nally over.

In this way we pay tribute to and re­mem­ber the con­tri­bu­tion of Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth mil­i­tary and civil­ian ser­vice­men and women in­volved in the two world wars and later con­flicts.

And nowhere un­der­stands the im­por­tance of this bet­ter than Ply­mouth – home to the largest Naval Base in western Europe. Devon­port is the lifeblood of Ply­mouth and is as syn­ony­mous with this city as it is with our fa­mous Royal Navy.

Ships have set sail from Devon­port’s dock to de­fend our great na­tion for hun­dreds of years, and I re­cently paid a visit to the city to reaf­firm our com­mit­ment to the role Ply­mouth con­tin­ues to play in Bri­tish mil­i­tary life.

We are liv­ing in in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous times, with threats in­ten­si­fy­ing both on and be­neath the water. Ply­mouth should be in no doubt that it will be right at the heart of Bri­tain’s fight for a safer world by hom­ing our for­mi­da­ble next-gen­er­a­tion Type 26 frigates. These world­class anti-sub­ma­rine war­ships will pro­vide cut­tingedge pro­tec­tion for the likes of the UK’s nu­clear de­ter­rent and the Queen El­iz­a­beth

Class air­craft car­ri­ers, with the abil­ity to con­duct a whole range of other op­er­a­tions any­where in the world.

The eight war­ships will start be­ing de­liv­ered to the Royal Navy from the mid2020s, herald­ing a new era for the base. Devon­port has played a cen­tral role in the de­fence of the UK and in sup­port­ing the Royal Navy since 1691 – from the Napoleonic wars to the Falk­lands Con­flict.

Along­side frigates, Devon­port is home to

Bri­tain’s sur­vey ves­sels and am­phibi­ous ships on a vast site cov­er­ing more than 650 acres with four miles of wa­ter­front. It em­ploys 2,500 peo­ple, sup­ports around 400 lo­cal firms and gen­er­ates around 10% of Ply­mouth’s in­come.

The MoD has a huge foot­print in the South West spend­ing £5.1bn with in­dus­try – more than in any other part of the coun­try – and Ply­mouth is a key part of our de­fence. This Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment knows how im­por­tant the sec­tor is to Ply­mouth’s econ­omy, which is why we’re work­ing with lo­cal MP

Johnny Mercer and Con­ser­va­tive group leader Ian Bowyer and his team to safeguard these cru­cial jobs.

As we re­mem­ber the past, we also look to­ward the fu­ture: build­ing an armed forces de­ter­mined by abil­ity alone, one that sup­ports vet­er­ans and fam­ily of per­son­nel, and de­fends and pro­tects those who de­fend and pro­tect us.

I am proud of the in­spir­ing men and women who make up our world-lead­ing mil­i­tary. Our armed forces have a proud his­tory of pro­tect­ing the val­ues we hold so dear and of keep­ing us all safe, and now we can be con­fi­dent in our fu­ture.

PIC­TURE: AN­DREW MATTHEWS/PA

Pop­pies on wooden crosses in the Field of Re­mem­brance at Royal Woot­ton Bas­sett

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