The two minutes’ Remembrance Day observation is rightly emotionally charged. It is a powerful silence: a moment of personal reflection to consider the fallen, the injured and their families; and I contemplate the difficult choices this country has faced, from the fields of Flanders to the deserts of Helmand.
Each week, Parliament enacts its own small commemoration. Names, ranks and units of British military personnel recently killed are read out by the Prime Minister and Ed Milliband.
It is absolutely right that MPs listen to that roll call and reflect on the enormity of the sacrifice, the true price of Parliament’s decision to send our troops into battle. Those decisions carry profound consequences and we must remember that always. The sacrifice must be recognised and acknowledged.
Newham isn’t a traditional garrison town and it’s uncommon for us to suffer a loss. I am unlikely to meet the widows or children of serving soldiers, recently killed in action.
This may be about to change.
Government cuts to the Regular Army will reduce its strength by 20%. To “compensate,” the Territorial Army will almost double, from 18,000 to 30,000. It’s a significant change, destined to affect our own G Company, 7th Battalion, The Rifles.
I spoke to these soldiers and know they’ve already braved the front line and witnessed war’s horrors. Such courage and dedication deserve our admiration.
The Government must accept that courage alone cannot “compensate” for reduced training and readiness levels that inevitably affect Reservists.
It is not enough to be grateful for bravery exhibited in war. We have a responsibility to ensure our soldiers are properly equipped and have the right preparation for their tours of duty.
Remembrance Day thanks alone are not enough: nor our two minutes of silence. Respect our troops. Treat them right. They’ve earned it.