Falling leaves and fallen heroes

Iain Wright with his children at Hartlepool war memorial on Remembrance Sunday
Iain Wright with his children at Hartlepool war memorial on Remembrance Sunday

REMEMBRANCE Sunday fell on November 11 this weekend.

I strongly believe that every November 11 is special and the country should pause and reflect.

I find it difficult to understand how, in the immediate aftermath of the war, it was felt that the country would be somehow too busy to pause for two minutes, but it is always particularly special when the 11th falls on a Sunday.

On Saturday, there was the traditional Service of Remembrance held at the military part of Stranton Cemetery, organised by the Combined Services Association.

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It was great to see Harry Hardy, who hasn’t been too well, in strong spirits and fighting form leading the service. Harry wasn’t able to make it last year because of poor health, but he was back better than ever.

I particularly like the ceremony in Stranton Cemetery, not only because the military graves are in a very beautiful area, but also because children play such a central part of the ceremony.

Those who died in the British 14th Army, made up of soldiers from Britain and India and who were engaged in the Burma campaign, are buried in the War Cemetery, in Kohima.

This has on its memorial the most beautiful and moving inscription: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”

That symbolises to me how future generations, such as our children, should always play a major part in the Remembrance Sunday events.

That is why I have, for a number of years taken my youngest son, William, up with me when I lay the wreath on Sunday.

This year my little girl Hattie also wanted to come – I think nerves had stopped her in previous years.

I think it is pleasing to see more people and organisations, as they lay their wreaths, taking children and young people with them as an important reminder, so our children don’t suffer the tragedy of war.

I say this every year, but this year’s Remembrance Sunday ceremony saw the biggest crowd I have seen at the event.

In bright sunshine people observed the two minutes’ silence immaculately and with respect.

During that silence, there was a particular gust of wind and the autumnal trees in Victory Square shed a large number of leaves.

I found this very symbolic of the fallen service personnel, and civilians, who have paid the ultimate price and who have fallen in the defence and service of our country.

I think there has been a change of view even in the last five or 10 years when it comes to Remembrance Sunday.

Whereas before, I think it was looking to the past and commemorating the fallen of previous, historic wars, now it is focused on the present and future with a determination to honour, not just those who have died, but their families and veterans who have served our country so bravely.

That is why the Poppy Appeal from the Royal British Legion is so important.

I hope you have been able to contribute to show your appreciation of what our Armed Forces have done and continue to do for our country.