This week I was privileged to be in the House of Commons for a debate on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of the First World War. Speaker after speaker spoke movingly about the end of the war, the impact on soldiers and their families. Almost every town and village across the whole country had a young man who never came home. It was truly a catastrophe.
Speeches are important. So is ceremony, and collective acts of remembrance.
This year more than ever, Remembrance Sunday really matters. The last person alive who fought in the First World War has now died. We are the memory now. When we come together, in villages, towns and cities, we will think of people we never knew, of people who our families told us about, of sacrifice we can only imagine. We will also think of those who have been affected by wars since 1918. Sadly, this war was not the war to end all wars.
A few weeks ago I was at a performance of ‘Home at Last’, a community opera by Mark Lawrence and Claire Williamson, about how those left behind in Bristol were affected when men went left to fight. This was specially commissioned by Horfield Primary School, St Mary Redcliffe and Temple Secondary School and St Mary Redcliffe Primary School. It was performed by pupils from the three schools and various community choirs in the magnificent St Mary Redcliffe Church. Along with many other people, I was moved to tears, both by the content and by the emotional connection that children and adults of all ages were making to our history of a century ago. It was so beautifully and poignantly performed, depicting how women and children who lost husbands, sons and fathers, and who had to struggle in so many ways.
Like so many people, I will be attending a memorial service on Sunday. I will be remembering everyone who has given their life, who has lost a member of their family, or who has had their life scarred by war.