MP’s column - ‘Poppies are a reminder of the price of war’

Remembrance Day in Sudbury ANL-161113-192049009
Remembrance Day in Sudbury ANL-161113-192049009

I would not dispute that the biggest global event this month has clearly been the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

However, for me, as in any November, there is a huge local event to fulfil – namely, laying a wreath and paying my respects on Remembrance Sunday.

In many ways, the fact Mr Trump was elected just before Remembrance weekend bears poignant reflection.

Before explaining why this timing may seem unsettling, I want to pay tribute to the organisers of all three Remembrance services that I attended this year.

On the week before Remembrance Sunday I joined the special Submariners’ service held at St Mary’s Church on the Shotley Peninsula, and then on the day itself I attended two services with the Royal British Legion, the first in Great Cornard on the Sunday morning, and the second in Hadleigh that afternoon. All three of these services were moving in their own unique way.

Shotley bears hundreds of naval graves, including many German service personnel, in a windswept location looking out to Felixstowe docks and the sea beyond.

St Andrew’s Church Cornard was packed to the rafters. In Hadleigh, we had a fly-past by two Apache helicopters from Wattisham.

So many poppies worn; so many people honouring the millions who paid the ultimate sacrifice. And yet, I would argue that we wear poppies not just to remember but also to remind.

That is, to remind us of the price you pay when peace is lost and nations clash instead of working together. For me, the singular most important reason for devoting so much effort to the act of Remembrance is so that we never become complacent about the absence from war that our generation has been so fortunate to enjoy.

Yes, our generation has known conflict. However, the death toll in the two world wars was 83 million (civilians and military).

We should be eternally grateful that the toll from wars since has been so much smaller – if no less painful for bereaved families. The fact is that NATO has underpinned a post-war global order built to avoid us having another existential war like 1939-45. And NATO has succeeded; failure would have resulted in multi million-fold deaths once again.

We take that order for granted at our peril and Donald Trump, with his cavalier ‘showbiz’ politics, seems prepared to rip up that structure, as he threatens to disband NATO along with so many other policies.

I hope our worst fears are groundless and the new President recognises that so many died in previous wars, including so many Americans, to give us a peace that we must cherish for generations to come.