James Morris MP column: It's time to remember two epic 20th Century conflicts
2:09pm Thursday 1st May 2014
2:09pm Thursday 1st May 2014
This summer sees significant anniversaries of two of the bloodiest conflicts in history, which claimed the lives of thousands of people from Halesowen and Rowley Regis.
As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, controversies over its causes and the decisions made by military and political commanders have been reignited.
What cannot be disputed is that the millions of young men who signed up for the Western Front in 1914 and 1915 were in no doubt that what they were fighting for was both right and necessary.
For many of us, much of our limited understanding of the Great War comes from war poetry and Blackadder Goes Forth.
The sacrifices made by so many soldiers fighting “for King and country”, and by countless civilians at home and overseas, is now almost unimaginable.
Whilst millions of instances of incredible bravery have passed without ever receiving the recognition that they deserved, we do know of some acts that were astonishing even against a daily backdrop of extraordinary heroism.
One of our local heroes, Lance Corporal George Onions is buried at Quinton Cemetery in Halesowen.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross after – with the support of a single comrade – he put himself in incredible danger to capture 200 German soldiers and march them back to his company commander.
The Second World War, which began 75 years ago this September, is perhaps better known to most of us.
Again, almost every family will have its own tales of heroism and sacrifice.
Amongst them, the hardships and dangers on the Arctic convoys went a long time without appropriate recognition. I was pleased when the Government issued the Arctic Star last year to recognise those who served.
And I am delighted to be supporting the Halesowen News’ campaign for a memorial to HMS Achates, Halesowen’s own warship, which was sunk in the Barents Sea in 1942.
Each of the Black Country districts raised money to “adopt” a ship and people raised enormous amounts to refit them.
It is right that the sacrifices made by all those who served on board is finally recognised.
Over the next few months, there are a number of local events planned to remember the two World Wars.
The anniversary of war is not a time for celebration, but we owe it to all those who served to try to understand what they were fighting for and what that involved.
Times change and the things around us change.
The men marching off to France and Belgium in 1914 – and even those mobilising in World War II – would struggle to recognise much of the world we know today.
However the values that they were fighting for remain as valid as ever.
So I hope that you will find the memorial events planned for this summer and autumn useful and moving, and will remember those who have gave everything for us all.
But above all, we should all try to honour them through our everyday deeds as well as our anniversary words.
We must show that the freedoms and decency for which they fought remain as dear to us as they were to them, whilst thanking God that few of us will ever need to make the sacrifices made by those heroes who served.
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