MP WRITES: Town at its best over Remembrance weekend

The Hartlepool Remembrance Day service and parade.
The Hartlepool Remembrance Day service and parade.

Hartlepool was at its best over the Remembrance weekend.

Patriotic but not nationalistic, respectful and determined to come together in a collective way to mourn and commemorate the sacrifices made by townsmen and women in wars and conflicts over many years.

The events that took place over Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the best attended I have ever seen for Remembrance weekend.

Some of that may be due to the fact this is a very poignant anniversary: the centenary of the start of the First World War, which is generally seen as ushering in war, death and injury on an industrial scale; and our own anniversary coming up in a month’s time to mark 100 years since the Bombardment of the Hartlepools.

The moving and amazing poppy tribute at the Tower of London, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to pause and reflect over recent weeks, has captured the imagination of the entire world.

It is moving, simple and yet at the same time incredibly powerful.

However, I think it would be wrong to suggest that the well-attended and sincerely observed events over the weekend were the result of people wanting only to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Remembrance events have been growing in attendance for years.

Ironically, as the First World War, and increasingly the Second World War, moves from living memory to history as the participants pass on, people feel more moved to commemorate those sacrifices made.

Importantly, I am pleased to see that children are becoming a greater part of Remembrance commemorations.

The Hartlepool Mail made this point on Monday.

I have always wanted my children to remember and participate in the events of Remembrance Sunday and I am heartened to see so many of Hartlepool’s children and young people playing an active role.

This means that the sacrifices made will be remembered by the next generation and will ensure that those sacrifices will never be forgotten.

That was made very clear at the ceremony on Friday at Hartlepool College of Further Education.

That was attended by veterans of the Armed Forces, but what was really striking – appropriately, in a college of further education – was the large number of students who wished to pay their respects.

The hall at Hartlepool College was filled to capacity largely by young people, and they showed their respects in a collective and impeccably-observed way.

The film by Gary Kester, showing the full horrors of the trenches in northern France in 1914, where limbs had been blown up and soldiers had to live with rats, was incredibly moving.

The event on Saturday at the military part of Stranton Cemetery was also better attended than any other year, again with large numbers of children involved.

Walking past the graves in that cemetery never fails to bring home the full impact of war and the sacrifices made.

Lads of 18, 19, 20 and 21, their whole lives ahead of them, were taken away from their families and loved ones.

I have two sons who are now 20 and 18, and I suppose it is human nature to place your children in the shoes of those of the same age, and shudder at the horror and waste of young life.

The Remembrance Sunday service was the highest attended I have ever seen. The respectful silence and then spontaneous applause for the servicemen and women was incredibly moving. This, and other services across the town over the weekend illustrated that Hartlepool has not forgotten the sacrifices made, and that our ability to live in freedom is a direct result of our ancestors laying down their lives. For our tomorrows, they gave their todays.