We Will Remember Them
We marked Remembrance Sunday differently this year. I was so grateful to be able to attend our local service and lay a wreath at the Stoke Cenotaph, but Covid-19 restrictions meant that many could not, so they remembered those unknown soldiers, as well as past family and old military friends in their own very special ways.
Milton Primary Academy in my constituency paid their respects by creating a wonderful wall mural in the school playground of a fallen soldier surrounded by poppies. Whilst at 11 o’clock this morning, the students and staff at Stoke-on-Trent College shared their Remembrance Service with the rest of the community by live-streaming their Remembrance online.
This sense of community, and of a long and rich shared history is what makes Stoke-on-Trent such a special place. During the First World War, there was a steep increase in the demand for ceramic goods such as tableware for hospitals, homes and the military; propaganda-ware such as little ceramic tanks and battleships; and even plates with patriotic designs on them. And as the world leaders in ceramics, and ceramics manufacturing, the talented workforce in Stoke-on-Trent buckled up and knuckled down to help the country fight the war on both the home front and abroad.
On this day we also reflect on those whose lives have been changed forever as a result of their service to our country. Many wounds are not visible and last a lifetime.
I remember my late father, Eric, who served in the Royal Artillery during WW2. He was 17 when war broke out, a young man from Birmingham who had never travelled beyond the Midlands. Within a year he was despatched to foreign shores and saw active service in Iraq and Sicily, before landing on Gold Beach on D Day, crossing Northern France and being part of the liberation of Brussels.
My father was only 23 when the war ended, yet it defined who he was for the rest of his life. He found comfort in the company of other veterans and made regular pilgrimages back to Brussels and Normandy. He never talked of the trauma or casualties of war, but of the camaraderie. He read many accounts of battles and would comment on the accuracy from his first-hand knowledge.
Nowadays we are very much aware of the mental health challenges of those who have experienced trauma in the front line. For my father’s generation there was no such support. His philosophy came from his grandmother who would tell him “Be grateful for what you’ve got”. That stoicism defined his life.
My father was my inspiration to enter public life, and I miss him dearly. My thoughts each 11 November are with him.
I am deeply aware that we owe so much to our armed services and military personnel, and we are forever grateful for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf. And while this Remembrance Day has been unique, I know I speak for residents right across my constituency when I say, be it with knitted poppies for key workers, soldier silhouettes in school playgrounds or live streamed remembrance services, we will remember them.