Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire, Bill Wiggin, joined around 30 other MPs, all of whom had either served or continue to serve in our Armed Forces, to take part in an act of Remembrance ahead of Sunday’s official national commemorations.
With the MPs drawn from across a number of parties, the Guards Chapel in London’s Wellington Barracks provided a fitting setting for the MPs to pay their respects to those who had died in the two World Wars and conflicts since.
Bill Wiggin MP, who served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and Westminster Dragoons (Territorial Army), was proud to take part in the service and pay his respects in this unprecedented way.
Bill Wiggin MP said: “All the MPs who gathered today to pay tribute to those who have fallen have served in the Armed Forces, yet despite our political differences we all joined up to the same cause to serve our country.
I am very proud to have served as a TA Officer in both the Royal Welch Fusiliers and Westminster Dragoons and I know what brilliant people we have in our Armed Forces.
Today we remembered and paid our respects to those who have lost their lives in service of our country.”
This was the second consecutive year that current and retired Armed Forces personnel who are now parliamentarians in the House of Commons have gathered in this way. The service included the Last Post, Kohima Epitaph and two-minute silence as well as hymns Eternal Father Strong To Save, I Vow To Thee My Country and Jerusalem. The service was conducted by Reverend Kevin Bell, Senior Chaplain London District, with a wreath laid by Sir Peter Tapsell, the Father of the House of Commons on behalf of all those present.
With this, the hundredth year since the start of WWI, the service carried particular significance. Alongside the hundreds of thousands of British Servicemen killed while on active service in the Great War were nineteen serving Members of Parliament, commemorated in the House of Commons Books of Remembrance. Amongst them was Valentine Fleming MP, a Major in the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and father of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.
Following on from their forebears, almost 60 of the current 650 MPs in the House of Commons have served their country either in the regular or reserve forces, with some still serving in the reserves. Those in attendance represented military service in a variety of operational theatres including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland.
After the service, a commemorative photograph featuring the attendant MPs, some of them wearing their regimental or service ties, was taken. The photo highlights the wealth and breadth of military service in the House of Commons, sending the message to today’s military personnel that their experiences and beliefs are not alien to those representing them. The experience and knowledge that can be brought to bear from within the House ensures that military matters experience the strongest of scrutiny and support.
The event was again organised by Mark Francois MP, the Armed Forces Minister. He served as a Territorial Army officer in the Royal Anglian Regiment in the 1980s.
He said: “Many serving personnel are often surprised when I tell them that around 60 MPs – or almost one in ten in the House of Commons – have served in the Armed Forces, either as a Regular or Reserve.
“Today’s service gave those MPs an opportunity to pay their respects to the fallen, particularly in this important and commemorative year, but I hope it will also highlight to our serving personnel and their families how many parliamentarians have worn the Queen’s uniform at some point in their lives.
“We have served too: so we also remember them.”
A wider series of events are planned to take place between 2014-2018 in order to mark the centenary of significant dates from WWI, such as the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 2016) and Armistice Day (11 November 2018).