A century ago this week, the guns of the First World War fell silent. The Armistice of 1918 brought to an end a terrible conflict. Nine million soldiers and seven million civilians lost their lives. In Dover and Deal, thousands were left devastated by the loss of their loved ones.
Sunday's remembrance service in Deal was packed – more turned out than ever to remember those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. I was honoured to lay a wreath of poppies at the war memorial outside the hospital. Over in Dover huge crowds turned out the pay remember the fallen.
I'm proud that so many people in our community honoured the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. Our role at the frontline, as the gateway to England, means we understand the importance of safety and security – and how military tradition is so vital to us all.
Throughout the First World War, Dover was a major embarkation port for all three military services. The Dover Patrol, a naval fleet that included balloons and seaplanes, was an important defence against the might of the German Navy. The first bomb to fall on British soil fell close to Dover Castle on Christmas Eve 1914. It was the first of many to rain down on the town. Many of the wounded came back through Dover, with the Marine Station being used for ambulance trains from 1915 onwards.
It is difficult for us to comprehend the heroism and the horror endured by our ancestors in that terrible war. Homes, friends and family were distant memories for our brave warriors in the trenches.
That is why we must never forget what they did for us – nor should we fail in our duty to stand by those who have served and kept our nation safe. That's why we need to be there to support veterans as they battle the physical and mental scars left by conflict. The NHS recently expanded provision in this area, setting up a Veterans' Complex Treatment Service providing a wider range of support than ever. Yet we must do even more.
We must also honour the covenant to the soldiers who served in Northern Ireland. Veterans who bravely fought against terrorism – the same terrorists that committed the most shocking atrocity in Deal – deserve to be honoured. Yet they are instead harassed in retirement, while the terrorists enjoy an amnesty. It is time to put an end to that and ensure those who have served our nation are able to enjoy their old age with the dignity and respect of a grateful national that they deserve.
Let us always remember those who have served our nation and those who even today keep us safe and secure. Not just on Remembrance Sunday. Let us respect and honour them every day of the year.
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