Each year in November, we take time to remember those who have given so much in defence of this great country. The service of those in our armed forces during the First and Second World Wars, and in the conflicts since, should be a source of great pride to us all. We must never forget what these brave men and women have sacrificed for our freedom, democracy and way of life. Last week, at the Garden of Remembrance in the Palace of Westminster, I planted a cross for the Windsor constituency, representing our community at the very heart of our democracy. And, on Remembrance Sunday, I attended the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s civic service, where we commemorated the fallen.
The Windsor constituency has a special connection to the military. Windsor itself is a garrison town, being home to the Household Cavalry, the Welsh Guards, and Coldstream Guards. The latter is the oldest continuously-serving regiment in the British Army, which as well as carrying out the vital role of protecting the monarchy, has been involved in almost every major conflict in which this country has been engaged, from the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, and both World Wars. Notably, during the First World War, the Guards saw action at the First and Third Battles of Ypres, tragically suffering huge losses, and in the Second World War, served extensively in North Africa. In addition, they have also seen recent deployments in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year, events in Ukraine as a result of Vladimir Putin’s brutal war have brought home the true bravery of those who give everything to defend us all. The valiant efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces have so far managed to stall Putin’s invasion efforts, and I am proud of the role our own armed forced have helped to play in this. Since June, we have trained nearly 5,000 Ukrainian recruits, who will then use their skills to return to help defend their homeland. This has been part of a larger program operating after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, which has given training to over 22,000 Ukrainian troops.
The war has had a devastating effect on Ukraine’s civilians, with tens of thousands of casualties, and millions forced to flee their homes. I have been encouraged by the generosity of people up and down this country, and in our own community, who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
This period of remembrance reminds us that the bravery and sacrifice of those who defend us is a constant which links one generation with the next. The events of this year remind us that we cannot be complacent in the defence of our values of freedom and democracy.