Today I went to the Remembrance Day Service down on the seafront. In the cold bright sunlight, with the whisper of the gentle sea in the background, the people of Teignmouth remembered and gave thanks for sacrifices made. In the two minutes of silence, I thought about my two great great uncles, one of whom died at the Somme, the other who died at training camp that same summer. And I thought of their brother, my great grandfather who was on his way to the Front in a taxi when Armistice was declared, who cried whenever anyone mentioned the Great War. I thought about my beloved Grandpa who served in the Royal Artillery throughout the Second World War, a gunner in France and Germany. Who was away from home, from his wife and children, my mother just a baby in 1939. I thought of my wonderful Nanny who fought her own war on the Homefront, without her new husband, with rationing, with heavy bombing in Bristol and young children to look after. And then when Grandpa returned home in 1945, when so many did not, he never spoke of what he had seen or what he had done. He didn’t even claim his medals until my brother did it for him decades later.
My family’s story is an ordinary story. Everyone in this country has a similar story. But each story is unique and extraordinary.
Today, there are men and women fighting to keep our freedom, fighting for justice and peace. So many have laid down their lives for their country. And so many return injured and hurt in ways you can see, and in ways you can’t see. A new charity, Words for the Wounded is launched today to raise funds for the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen and women. I am honoured to be one of the patrons for this charity and urge you to take a look at the website. We all have a story to tell. Please think about writing it down and entering the competition.
And finally let me leave you with some words of comfort on a day that is so difficult for so many. But important for each and every one of us.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.