MATTHEW HANCOCK: A tradition that must continue

Matthew Hancock MP plays the Last Post at Mildenhall ANL-141118-111501001
Matthew Hancock MP plays the Last Post at Mildenhall ANL-141118-111501001
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It was an honour to play at this year’s remembrance service in Mildenhall. Remembrance Sunday is always a special time but no more so than this year when we commemorate those who lost their lives in World War One 100 years ago.

I may not have got all the notes right, but it was a humbling experience playing the Last Post all the same.

I was extremely nervous because of the sheer significance behind what I was doing. Playing a musical instrument in public is nerve-racking enough as it is, but playing the Last Post alone to honour not only all those who have bravely fought in conflict, but to honour a whole century of remembrance, was terrifying.

Despite the passage of 100 years since the World War One, conflict has affected us all, and still does.

The response this year locally and nationally has been fantastic.

The stunning poppy display at the Tower of London had to be extended because of the sheer volumes of people flocking in to pay their respects. There were services and parades across West Suffolk on Sunday, November 9, in all the major towns and villages. There was a march in Brandon, a parade in Thetford and wreath laying in Lakenheath to name but a few.

No part of West Suffolk has been left untouched by the tragedy of war. The youngest person on Haverhill’s Roll of Honour was just 16 years old and the youngest on Newmarket’s Roll of Honour was 17. It is striking each year at the Mildenhall service, as the names of the fallen are read by schoolchildren, how many members of the same family were lost. We cannot underestimate the bravery of those men – including children – during the early 20th century and beyond. It is only right that we continue to remember the sacrifice they made.

But 2014 marks other important moments in world history, too.

It has been 70 years since the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944 and this October saw a formal end to our combat in Afghanistan after 13 long years.

All three major events serve as a reminder that, whatever the day to day party politics of Westminster, one of the most important powers Members of Parliament have today is the ability to vote on whether we send British troops to war or not.

We must never forget the huge human cost of war – 453 of our armed troops died while serving in Afghanistan, six of whom came from Suffolk. We owe each and every one of them an incredible debt for their tremendous sacrifice.

I was humbled to be a part of Mildenhall’s remembrance service this year and I hope someone will do the same next year. I will donate my bugle to whoever commits to do it next year.

Our national tradition of remembering those who gave their lives must always continue for it through our services, our thoughts and our music that we can memorialise those who fought for our country, forever.