Originally to be published in South London Press 15th November 2013
Last Sunday I, along with other elected representatives of Southwark, gathered for the service of remembrance. It was, of course, in format and spirit, the same as every year I can remember - my 23rd service of remembrance as MP. The only difference this time was that it was held at the War Memorial on Borough High Street rather than Walworth Road.
The hymns were the same. We sang ‘O God Our Help In Ages Past’, ‘All People That On Earth Do Dwell’ and the National Anthem. The familiarity of such hymns to many captures perfectly the familiarity of the ageless message of remembrance and this year, as has been the case for the past decade, we call to mind those who have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
These moments are so important in civic life because their civic recognition is a message to each other, and to every family affected by war, that the sacrifice of those who went before us, loved ones, friends and neighbours will never be forgotten - there is a sense, at the moment, on that day, every year, of solidarity with those who have fallen.
Across the country, families, representatives, congregations of all faiths, ex and current servicemen and women, gather to reflect and be thankful. In so doing, we renew our commitment to passing on to a younger generation the importance of remembrance. It’s also a time to consider the human condition shared by us all. Aggression, anger and vengeance can be found in the hearts of all human beings and, just as peace is to be sought on the world stage, it is also to be sought in all our hearts.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an extraordinary job maintaining the beautiful graveyards that can be visited any time by those as much as four generations removed from a grandfather, uncle or father who died. Little known perhaps is that our own West Norwood Cemetery is where the graves of many, who gave their lives, can be found. There we have 137 who lost their lives in WW1 and 70 from WW2. The cemetery in Kohima has 1,420 Allied war dead. The memorial of the 2nd British Division there has the famous inscription which captures so perfectly the timeless significance of remembrance: ‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today’.