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Remembrance - Article for the Brecon and Radnor Express

2015 Tachwedd 13 2:31 PM
Gan William Powell yn Brecon and Radnor Express

At Ease Garden OpeningRecalling Harry Patch

As I gather my thoughts for this Column, it is only hours since towns and villages across our Country came together at their war memorials in solemn remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Whilst the trenches of World War One are etched in our collective awareness, as a Nation we continue to mark the centenary of milestones in that historic conflict, and in doing so, would do well to recall the wisdom in the words of Harry Patch, the 'last fighting Tommy.'

Resisting Jingoism and Isolation

Harry warned against the dangers of glamourising warfare. He knew at first hand its true horrors but died sure in the knowledge that, whilst our Planet is still strife riven, war on our own continent had been made unthinkable by shared membership of both the European Union and NATO. While acknowledging that there are a range of different views on the merits of 'leaving' or 'remaining' in the European Referendum to come, I think that it is right to reflect on the legacy of Harry Patch - and to resist the tendency to jingoism and isolationism that has poisoned not only British, but also Welsh politics in recent years.

Inspiring Veterans

I was delighted back in the Summer to have had the opportunity to attend the opening of the 'At Ease' Veterans' Garden in the Grounds of Bronllys Hospital. That ceremony included a poignant poetry reading by my friend and colleague, Kirsty Williams AM, together with the opportunity to meet military veterans whose inspiration and hard work had helped to make it a reality, including Mark Christmas and Mick Farrell. We were greeted by veteran campaigner Jonathan Morgan - and were delighted that veterans' advocate and award winning local poet, Owen Sheers, was present. His widely acclaimed 'Mametz Wood,' inspired by a visit to the Somme, is a stark reminder of the harsh reality of war.

Dignity for the VE Generation

Those veterans of the Second World War, who sacrificed so much in their formative years for the sake of generations to come, notably in terms of our freedom of movement, speech and action, are less numerous in our National acts of remembrance as the years pass. Whilst our great war time leader, Sir Winston Churchill, did so much for the cause of Human Rights and European Unity, which we jettison at our peril, there is, in my view, an even greater challenge to this present generation - and that is to ensure dignity and respect for those who served in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, and who continue to bear the scars every single day.