Like so many of you I attended services of Remembrance over the weekend. On Saturday I was in Holybourne and on Sunday in Alton.
Both services were moving, solemn and contemplative; a short moment in time to stop and think about conflicts past, and, sadly, those that are very much front and centre today.
As more and more of our World War II veterans pass away each year, so the first-hand accounts of the horrors and relentlessness of that war fade away. Time has a habit of moving slowly, then very quickly.
This year marks twenty years since the start of the UK’s military operations in Iraq and it is the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
We all have an important role in keeping these memories alive and never forgetting the ultimate sacrifice that was made by so many. We need to remind ourselves too of the bravery of those men and women who continue to serve in our armed forces.
In the run up to Remembrance weekend I was contacted by a local family who told me the story of their elderly mother, Mrs Constance Murphy, who joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force when she was just 17, trained at RAF Thorney Island a year later, and served at RAF Davidstow. While at RAF Davidstow, her fiancé was killed during a test flight. As was the way back then, remarkably Mrs Murphy carried on with her duties and service to her country, despite her profound grief.
Now in her hundredth year, Mrs Murphy attended the service at Bordon with her family at the weekend to remember those that she served with and those that tragically perished; the brave combat pilots that went out on sorties and never returned, and the many that died when bases were bombed.
The Annual Service of Remembrance is one of the most important unifying moments for our country. And in these sometimes fractured times, where conflict still exists all over the world and innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire, we must take these moments to stand together and remind ourselves of the terrible price of war.
And finally, an Alton resident, Dan Scholes, very kindly sent me a poem last week that he had written himself to mark Remembrance Sunday and to remember his own family members who had served in both World Wars. An apt way to end this week:
As we fall silent across the land, the bell doth toll as we stand,
Remembering our fallen one and all,
A minute’s silence, is that all,
For they were our fathers, who fought long and hard, for Queen/King and Country,
Friends and family, war torn faces and memories are plenty,
For those memories, of which are good, but most are bad,
Please come home safe, I love you dad,
Twas not only our heroes that we lost today, but the animals, each great and small, let's remember them, one and all,
So as we stand here to remember their courage,
'Lest we forget' and let's pay homage.