11th November should be a public holiday

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August 6, 2009
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August 20, 2009

Folkestone War Memorial

 

I believe that Remembrance Day, 11th November should become a public holiday, as a living memorial to the sacrifice through death of millions of service men and women, from the trenches of the First World War, to our troops currently fighting in Helmand province in Afghanistan. This would be a particularly significant time to consider such a mark of respect, with the funeral last week of Harry Patch, the last living link we had to World War One. Harry Patch recalled years later leaving Folkestone harbour with his regiment on the boat for France and looking at the white cliffs, wondering if he would ever see home again. He was fortunate to return, but many of his comrades made the supreme and selfless sacrifice to defend our country and the principles of liberty and justice for which they fought. There has been much speculation in recent months about whether we should have an additional public holiday in Britain, and also how we should mark the passing of the last of the veterans of the trenches of the First World War. By making 11th November a public holiday we can address both of these questions. Of course in other Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand, the idea of a public holiday to honour the war dead has been in place for many years. Both these countries mark ANZAC day on 25th April, the anniversary of the first day of the Gallipoli landings during the First World War, where so many soldiers from Australia and New Zealand lost their lives. Also, far from being treated just like any other holiday, increasing numbers of people now attend memorial services on those days. Here as well there is growing interest in the history of the World Wars, as new generations seek to understand more about the sacrifice of their ancestors. Local historians like Charles Fair, who regularly lead groups on tours of the First World War battlefields, remark that there is growing demand for places, and that over 500,000 people a year make the journey from the UK. As many of you will know, I have been involved as Chairman of the campaign group Step Short, in a project to restore the Road of Remembrance in Folkestone and create new memorial to mark the role Folkestone played during the First World War, as the major port of transport for people to and from the battlefields. I think it would be fitting for this to be completed in time for the centenary of the start of the war in 2014. If it was felt that we shouldn’t create new public holiday, we would also have the option of moving one of the bank holidays we already have to later in the year. I would be really interested to hear your views on this idea.

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