Remembrance Day services are always special events, but Sunday’s service at the Memorial Gardens was particularly moving. The first reason was the sheer size of the crowd.
I have seen attendances grow steadily on Remembrance Day over the past few years, but there seemed a very big jump this year. Whether it was because of the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War, which was the first big overseas expedition people of my generation experienced, or the sympathy we all feel for the people of Ukraine, there was a clear feeling that the whole country was involved.
Talking to other Members of Parliament this was clearly a national phenomenon, as they all commented on the higher attendance at their own local ceremonies this year.
The national ceremony in Whitehall was of course notable for the first time King Charles has presided as monarch. His mother always regarded this as one of her most important duties of the year, and I am sure he will feel the same.
2022 was also made special because of the return of Big Ben. After being silent for years the bells of the Elizabeth Tower in Parliament are now fully restored along with the structure that houses them. As I type this in my office in the Commons they are striking. I hope this is a symbol of a step back towards normality.
Back in Ashford it was also encouraging to see the number of young people taking part in the parade as cadets or members of other uniformed groups. I was told that 150 people took part in the march past after the ceremony, and many of them were young people who happily can have had no direct experience of war.
The phrase used every year is “Lest we forget”. It resonates as strongly today as ever, and it is good that there seems little sign that we will forget the sacrifices made by so many people over the years.