The efforts of our armed forces over the last year lend this Remembrance Day a particular poignancy
It has been more than 100 years since the morning an armistice was signed in the forest of Compiègne, leading to the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of the First World War from 11am that day.
Armistice Day has become an occasion to remember the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in all conflicts since that agreement. Whilst all these historic moments will rightly be reflected on today, this year’s period of Remembrance is also an important opportunity to recognise the contribution that our forces are making to our day-to-day security this year, both at home and abroad.
Service personnel have continued to support the efforts of frontline staff to tackle the pandemic. They have assisted with the rollout of the vaccine and booster jabs across the United Kingdom, as well as delivering doses to overseas territories including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. The armed forces have also supported ongoing testing efforts, including programmes in Birmingham, Nottingham, Merthyr Tydfil, Liverpool, Kent, Manchester and in Scotland.
Despite the woeful mismanagement in Afghanistan, the courage and compassion of our forces were a point of light in a bleak moment
As the crisis in Afghanistan unfolded in August, our nation’s service personnel went to extraordinary lengths to evacuate 15,000 British nationals and Afghans who supported our forces as part of the largest airlift since the Second World War. Despite the government’s woeful mismanagement of the crisis, images of the courage, professionalism and compassion of our forces were a point of light in a bleak moment for our country and the world. Labour has rightly called for the government to award their efforts with a medal.
At the beginning of October, almost 200 servicemen and servicewomen – 100 of them drivers – began providing support to deliver petrol to garages across the country to ease the fuel crisis created by the government’s short-sightedness.
Across the world, servicemen and servicewomen are currently deployed in 80 countries, as part of NATO commitments in Mali and Sudan, the Baltics and Ukraine, and with the Carrier Strike Group which set off on its maiden voyage this year.
Last year, the pandemic meant national celebrations had to be scaled back or cancelled. This year, against the backdrop of the Royal British Legion’s centenary, we can once again come together in our communities to mark the service and sacrifice of our personnel, veterans and their families. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 40,000 poppy sellers in every village, town, and city across our country, and some of us will even sell them ourselves.
In Parliament, Labour will continue to do all we can to support our armed forces as they work to keep us all safe and our country secure. That’s why we announced at our party conference, a Labour government would establish a £35 million fund to provide mental health services for veterans and support those Afghan nationals who have relocated to the UK through the ARAP scheme.
The Armed Forces Bill, which will soon return to the Commons, provides an important opportunity to tangibly improve the lives of our service personnel, veterans and their families, and implement long-overdue reforms to the way serious crimes are dealt with by the service justice system. We will hold the government to its manifesto promise to strengthen the Covenant that exists between those who serve and our society.
The efforts of our armed forces this year lend this period of Remembrance a particular poignancy. As we join millions across our country to mark service past and present, Labour must continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with service personnel.
Stephen Morgan is the Labour MP for Portsmouth South and shadow armed forces minister.
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