by Edward Leigh MP
In Westminster Hall, there is a memorial listing the names of MPs, Lords, and their sons who fell during the First World War. It is a haunting monument to service and sacrifice, two qualities we often seem to take for granted in our armed forces today. Today my colleague Claire Perry MP made the welcome proposal of creating a bank holiday for Remembrance Day, when we commemorate all those who have made the supreme sacrifice in defence of this kingdom and its people. The date’s origins recall the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when an armistice was declared between Great Britain and the Allied Powers on one side and Imperial Germany and the Central Powers on the other. This terrible conflict and the vindictive peace treaty that followed it changed Europe forever and shaped the course of the twentieth century.
Who can fail to be touched by the two minutes’ silence at monuments to the dead in cities, towns, and villages across the land? By the rain of poppies from the ceiling of the Albert Hall during the Festival of Remembrance, or at the Menin Gate at Ypres? By the laying of poppy wreathes by the Queen and the Royal Family, including our own Prince Harry who has seen action on the front in Afghanistan? These are not empty rituals, but solemn rites by which we remember, honour, and revere. They serve to educate the young and inculcate in them in a respect for the dead and for the past. Most of all (for someone like me who serves in Parliament) these ceremonies ought to act as a warning to the men of power to do everything they can to prevent needless and unnecessary slaughter and to resist the temptation to go to war unless absolutely justifiable.
The important thing about Remembrance Day is that it is not a holiday, a victory celebration, or a glorification of war. It is instead a solemn time to recollect and remember the sacrifices that so many have made over the past generations, and for the nation to prostrate itself before those poor, brave, honourable souls who gave their lives in the defence of Home.
We need to do more to defend and promote the culture of Remembrance, and a bank holiday on the 11th of November itself would be the most appropriate act, including a national two minutes’ silence at 11:00am.