As Christmas approaches in this centenary year of the end of the First World War, it is a poignant moment to reflect on what Christmas would have meant to those serving during the war, and immediately following its conclusion.
Many will be familiar with the Christmas Truce, observed particularly in 1914, when British, German and soldiers from other nations took part in unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front. Soldiers sang carols to each other, and eventually ventured out of their trenches and into No Man’s Land, to exchange food and fags. There are also tales of enemies coming together to kick footballs about in No Man’s Land at Christmas.
Today we can only imagine the profound impact this moment of respite must have had for those on the front line. It goes to show that even in the middle of such confrontation and carnage, common themes of faith, kinship and respect in adversity can prevail.
In all, 5,286 men from Shropshire were killed during the War, touching almost every community, however small. In towns and villages across South Shropshire, our war memorials stand testament to those who gave their lives for their country and their friends.
The many beacons last month on Remembrance Sunday across the country, including here in Shropshire, were extremely well attended by young and old alike, reflecting how even 100 years later, as a nation we will remember them.
I am becoming a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to support the enduring memorials to those who fought and died, so will have a personal role to play maintaining respect for their memory.
Given Christmas is a time we look to spend with loved ones and friends, or comfort the lonely, the end of the war and the first Christmas following the Armistice must have been a moment of intense relief for families reunited, but also profound sadness for those missing from family tables.
As we celebrate the festive season this year, it is fitting we reflect on those who sacrificed so much, and those who continue to serve our country 365 days a year, to uphold the sustained peace we enjoy at Christmas today.