Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a packed Hexham Abbey as Northumberland came together to pay their respects and commemorate the bravery of our troops who went to France so full of hope in 1914 and thereafter. As we know the war was not over by Christmas 1914, and the lives of those who survived was one long struggle of death, mud, and a changing perception of the conflict.
I have never been to a more vivid or moving service. This was a seamless blend of theatre, church, military, interested parties, local community and supportive charities all coming together in a sacred place. Due praise must go to the organisers, particularly The Lord Lieutenants team, the many churchmen of differing faiths, and the rural Dean, Dagmar, who along with all the helpers at Hexham Abbey, made this event possible. Everyone I spoke to afterwards agreed that the use of the two outstanding actors to bring the tragic events to life was a resounding success.
The lessons to be learnt were many, not least that peace is precious and often very hard won. Security and freedoms can never be taken for granted. But the service did much to covey the full horror of what those who served endured for all of us. I believe very strongly that it is important that the children of our generation need to have an understanding of what went on 100 years ago; I am delighted that so many of our local schools have plans to take their schoolchildren to the battlefields and monuments so that they have a better understanding.
The events across Europe today to continue our awareness and commemoration and they are set out in more detail by the BBC below: