The men and women who serve in Britain’s Armed Forces make enormous sacrifices to protect our country.
They are central not just to our national security but our national character. Remembrance Sunday provides us each with the opportunity to honour all those who have given their lives in the defence of our country and to support today’s Service community.
The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and its predecessors have recruited from Greater Manchester over several centuries. The Manchester Regiment, disbanded in 1958, served with distinction in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War, serving tirelessly to defeat the Nazi menace. Following Dunkirk, forty per cent of the surviving soldiers of the 2nd Manchesters fought until they were either captured or killed. Their sacrifice must not be forgotten. The Manchester Regiment was quartered in Tameside for many years, and to this day its museum is based in Ashton-Under-Lyne. The Duke of Lancaster’s continues to serve in Afghanistan after a decade of tours.
The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, quartered in Bury, also has a long history of recruiting from Denton and Reddish. With distinguished service in Cyprus (at the start of the Turkish invasion) Germany, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Regiment should be justifiably proud. Sadly this historic Regiment will be broken up under Ministry of Defence plans.
The Armed Forces make a unique contribution to our country and we saw this most recently during the Olympics. When the greatest show on earth was at risk it was our Forces who stepped in, many still with the sand of Afghanistan in their boots. The professionalism with which they acted made us all proud and impressed the world as they helped deliver the best Olympics ever.
But it is in military operations that their courage and contribution is most apparent. We were reminded of this during the conflict in Libya, where the slaughter of innocents at the hands of a tyrant was halted, and we see it in Afghanistan where today there are 9,500 dedicated, patriotic service personnel, with many young British troops involved in fierce firefights against the Taliban and anti-coalition militia. Their actions seek to provide stability for those whose names and stories they do not know, in the knowledge that we as a country have responsibilities beyond our borders and that our security at home is dependent on those who serve overseas.
We all know that servicemen and women’s struggles, sacrifices and courage do not end when they leave the battlefield. Whether through injury, trauma or even prejudice, huge challenges exist for veterans on their return. These are issues that must unite all political parties and all sections of society. Whether in increasing support for those with mental health problems, supporting service children, helping veterans find work or tackling discrimination against those in uniform, we all have a duty to respect, honour and thank our service community.
That is why Remembrance Sunday is so important. We have the chance to honour those veterans and attending Remembrance Day services across Tameside and Stockport. This year, I am at Denton’s Victoria Park and then in Dukinfield on Sunday where to pay my tribute to all those in the Armed Forces who continue to serve us so well. I will also be joining the RAF 1084 Air Cadets for a visit to the Willow Grove Cemetery in Reddish on Saturday. Meanwhile, wreathes will also be laid on my behalf at the Stockport, Reddish, Haughton Green and Audenshaw war memorials.
Please join the Royal British Legion at one of the Remembrance Day events on Sunday.
Article by Andrew Gwynne MP