The generations who gave all for victory and to keep us safe
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
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.
Poppies on wooden crosses in the Field of Remembrance at Royal Wootton Bassett