Sunday, January 23, 2022
HomeCommentColumnistsView from Westminster: Remembering the sacrifice and risk

View from Westminster: Remembering the sacrifice and risk

On Sunday people across our country and millions over the world fell silent on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

It was a hugely solemn occasion and brought out the best in our community and nation to commemorate the enormous sacrifice made in wartime to protect our values and give us our way of life today.

Locally, we have had strong links to the armed forces for generations. The 22nd and 24th Battalion of the London Regiment were based locally and thousands of local men who joined them to fight in World War One never returned home.

Keyworth Street at the Elephant and Castle is named after Leonard Keyworth, a lance corporal in the 24th Battalion who lost his life in battle and was awarded a Victoria Cross.

The first ever poppy factory was also based in Bermondsey, just off the Old Kent Road and originally only employed injured ex-service personnel.

In the past few months I have attended multiple services unveiling Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones honouring local men awarded the highest medal for gallantry, most recently on the Old Kent Road (for Jack Harvey) but including on Tower Bridge Road (Albert MacKenzie), Chapter Road (Frank Stubbs) and West Lane (Harold Mugford).

It has been wonderful to see so many schools participate in these events – and to see Redriff’s sculpture in last week’s News online.

It is important to never forget their sacrifice and commitment. I wear my poppy with pride and to remember the contribution my own family made in World War Two.

My family saw action in Africa, Asia and across Europe. My grandfather survived the Normandy landings and was involved in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It is hard to imagine the horror and human suffering that he witnessed, but the recent rise in antisemitism globally suggests too many fail to condemn such atrocities or acknowledge how they arose.

It is difficult today to imagine a political climate forming that could allow for such crimes to occur, but a recent rise in fascism is apparent.

Nationalists in the UK like Farage now make easy alliances with neo-Fascists like Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and foster a complicit mood which fails to learn from those who fought. President Trump did not bother turning up last weekend to honour the contribution made US forces. That the weather was blamed was pitiful; no soldier ever got excused duty due to rain.

Trump also flirts with neo-Nazis. His agenda is akin to that of the collaborators, sympathisers and weak populists of the inter-war period. We all know the perils of that route.

We should learn from history and not allow the same mistakes to be made again, risking war and putting millions of lives at risk.



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