11 November 2021

Today, and this weekend, the nation will pause to pay respect to those who have served our country and remember those who lost their lives in war.

This is always a poignant week for me, both as a former Defence Minister, and now as one of only two MPs to be a Commonwealth War Graves Commissioner.

There are Commonwealth War Graves memorials and gravestones across the UK, and indeed right across the world, which are carefully tended by the Commission. Our new volunteer project, Eyes On Hands On, has proved remarkably successful. This project encourages volunteers to visit local war grave sites in their area, to conduct inspections, and report back or help keep clean and tidy, helping ensure that our resources are best directed to headstones that need our attention.

Last month I met Claire-Marie Doherty, a volunteer for the project, who has been keeping watch over gravestones in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, to thank her for her work. I also met Neil Evans, a historian who has written a full Roll of Honour of the 3,526 Shropshire war dead, sorted by location in Shropshire where each serving person was regarded as from. The main copy of the Roll of Honour is on display at St Chad’s, Shrewsbury.

Just as happened with the First World War, the inexorable passage of time means the Second World War is increasingly moving from living history to history. So it is all the more important that we keep alive the memories of all those who have served.

While anecdotal, I have seen fewer people than usual wearing poppies, which I suspect may be due to fewer people gathering outside their home because of the lingering impact of the pandemic. But the Poppy Appeal is crucial to the efforts of the Royal British Legion to continue their work.

So in this Centenary year of the Royal British Legion, I encourage everyone in South Shropshire to wear their poppies with pride, both to remember all those who gave so much to defend our country, but also the vital welfare work the Legion does in supporting today’s veterans and service personnel.

I shall be in Bridgnorth today, to attend the Remembrance service, and on Sunday will join the Remembrance Parade and service in Ludlow. I encourage all who can to come and join us in commemorating those who sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.