“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Those words, spoken at every Remembrance Service since 1918, have never been more poignant than in this centenary year of the end of the First World War.
In 2018, we all come together to mark 100 years since Armistice Day – 11 November 1918 – which brought the Great War to its conclusion. The First World War was a conflict that claimed over 750,000 British lives, and saw around half a million young men wounded.
In total, some 18 million lives were lost on both sides of the conflict – military and civilian – and a further 20 million were wounded.In England, every family was in some way touched by the tragedy of war. Out of 16,000 village communities at the outbreak of war, only 32 were untouched by loss – later known as the “Thankful Villages”.
Here in Barnsley, we remember the heroism of the Barnsley Pals – who formed the 13th and 14th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment during the War – and all of the heroes from our villages who enlisted in other corps, services and regiments. These were young men from our local communities – the miners, glassworkers and clerks – who enlisted together, fought together and, ultimately, many of them died together.
Every year, on Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate those who gave their lives. Sacrifice of this scale must always be remembered, and should always be commemorated.
It was said that the First World War was ‘the war to end all wars’ – sadly that is far from being the case a century later.
In the 100 years since the savagery of the First World War, the world has changed in innumerable ways. Many of the technological advancements that caused this change have also served to make the mechanics of war more efficient and even more brutal. But sacrifice and service remain a constant. That is why, as well as reminding us of our past, the act of remembrance is an opportunity to be mindful of the present and the future.
I know first-hand the selfless dedication and commitment of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces today, and who risk their lives to keep us safe. In recent time, Barnsley has lost Martin Driver, David Marsh and Matthew Thornton – all killed in action serving our country. When we remember those who died in the First World War, we should also keep in mind those who are still serving and making the ultimate sacrifice today.
This year, as in previous years, I will be laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Barnsley. As I do so, I will be remembering all those who have lost their lives in war. But I will also be hoping that the sacrifices made, can help us to build a safer and more peaceful world.
The turnout for Remembrance Sunday is always huge in Barnsley and I’m sure we will see even more people this year. Please do make the effort to show your respect and your support. Lest we forget.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 2 November 2018.