Off the Fence: Mark Hoban

Mark Hoban
Mark Hoban
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MP for Fareham

Anyone who has seen Blood Swept Lands and Seas Of Red in the moat at the Tower of London cannot but be affected by the sight.

Each poppy marks a single sacrifice and yet together they recall the sacrifice of the whole Commonwealth.

Fittingly, the last poppy will be planted on Armistice Day, November 11, the day on which the First World War ended and is now the national day of remembrance for the war dead.

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has triggered acts of commemoration in families, villages, towns and cities and at a national and international level.

People remember the impact of the war in different ways – it might be a memory of a family member lost in the trenches, or of a sweetheart who had a lifetime of living with the loss of a fiancé.

The accumulation of those individual memories, like the Blood Swept Land, creates a sense of national loss, too.

We should learn from the First World War, too. The horror of the trenches should spur us to act to tackle future conflicts before they end in war.

We should also remember war shapes the future.

The fighting between the Kurds and Isil is taking place across territory partitioned by straight lines drawn on map by an English and a French diplomat during the First World War and implemented in the peace deals that ended that war: lines that were drawn without respect for religion and ethnic groupings.

Those lines resolved tensions between England and France, but created new divisions that shape conflicts today.

The sea of red poppies is a potent reminder of the First World War and the human cost of war.

Whilst that conflict ended in 1918, it lives on in today’s families and nations in a way that few would have thought possible when it started a century ago.

Acts of remembrance are as much about the present and the future as the past.