‘Seventy years ago this year, my Dad volunteered to serve in the Royal Navy so that he could play his part in fighting fascism.
He used to look back and remember his service with fondness and pride – in part because of the importance of the fight, but also because of the camaraderie shared with those whom he served alongside.
In comparison, the generations that have followed have not had to face the scale of threat that fascism represented to our country. The bloody history of the European continent in the 20th century has given way to relative peace.
But when I stand at the Cenotaph on Sunday, I won’t just be thinking of my Dad’s generation.
Because Remembrance Sunday is a moment for us to come together as a nation and remember those who have fallen and the millions of men and women who have served Britain.
I believe those of us who have not served in the Armed Forces owe a profound debt of gratitude to those who have and to their families who support them whilst they serve.
Today, in Afghanistan and around the world, thousands of our troops are still, far from home, serving in the most challenging of circumstances to help keep us safe. A long way from their families, and from the safety and comfort that we enjoy.
Yesterday, I was privileged to meet soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, when I visited Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh. It was inspiring to talk with these committed and supremely professional young people – who had recently returned from an operational deployment in Afghanistan. Their humility and fortitude serves as an example to us all.
It falls to us all to ensure they do not become forgotten heroes. To acknowledge the commitment they have made. And to honour the memory of their fallen colleagues.
Thirty years ago there were some who questioned the wearing of the poppy. Today that has largely gone and rightly so. We honour those who serve Britain, quite apart from the views people legitimately have on different conflicts. We honour them because in a democracy, governments make those decisions and the men and women of our Armed Forces serve, with the greatest professionalism and courage.
As we stand in silence on Sunday, we remember them. They are the best of our country.’