Reader Comment: Toby Perkins MP

On Monday people across Chesterfield and the whole country turned out lights in their homes in an hour of reflection for those who died in the First World War.

This tribute – quiet, personal, dignified – was the perfect way to honour the million British and Empire soldiers who gave their lives in the conflict. It was inspired by Sir Edward Grey’s famous and prophetic comment on the outbreak of the conflict; “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

It also demonstrates the great respect and honour that our armed services now have in our national life. Many Great War veterans returned to a land which they often felt did not appreciate and value their sacrifice. They were told not to speak about their experiences.

This is something the generations who followed sought to put right and in my lifetime, Remembrance Sunday has grown from a quiet moment of reflection to a truly significant event encompassing the whole nation in a similar vein to the “Lights Out” campaign.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that the country was not so prepared to deal with the consequences of the War back in 1918. No one had ever seen anything like it before.

The scale of the war means the family of almost everyone reading this piece will have been touched by the conflict. For me, it was my great grandfather A. P. Herbert who saw action at Gallipoli. After being wounded and returning home he wrote the novel “The Secret Battle”. This book made a huge impression on me as a young man. It demonstrated just how horrific the sacrifices the soldiers were asked to make were. It instilled in me the belief that the war should be commemorated but not celebrated. It taught me never to forget.