Last Sunday I attended the service of remembrance in Hayle followed by a parade and outdoor service at Illogan in the afternoon. Two students from Hayle School read out all the names of those killed in both the first, and then second, world war. It was really powerful and punctuated the sheer scale of the sacrifices made in both those wars in just one town alone. Many of the names were from well known local Hayle families who are still living here today. Meanwhile at Illogan, my attention was particularly drawn to the recent addition of Captain Daniel Read to the memorial. Dan Read was from Cornwall and was sadly killed in Afghanistan at the beginning of last year.
I think that the immediacy of the current mission in Afghanistan has made people far more conscious of the sacrifices being made on their behalf and it is why attendances at Remembrance services seems to have risen sharply in recent years. It was also good to see the Cadets, Scouts and Brownies out in such force to show their support again this year.
A few years ago, when I worked as an adviser to David Cameron, I travelled to Afghanistan to see first-hand the work of our armed forces. You cannot help but be impressed by their professionalism and can-do attitude. On arrival at Kandahar airfield we were warned that the base was being subjected to daily attacks by improvised rockets. In typical character, personnel at the base had taken to placing sweep stakes to predict where the next rocket would land. I can remember too, the young soldiers who were no more than 18 or 19 making up the Rapid Reaction Force, on stand-by to scramble out of the base and in to the night in hot pursuit of those who had just launched the latest rocket attack. It was all designed to make sure it didn’t get at all easy for the insurgents.
We also visited Lashkar Gah, one of the main cities in Helmand province which had serious security issues at the time but where both the British Army and aid agencies were digging new wells to improve the lives of the local community. Today, the security situation in Lashkar Gah has improved considerably and it shows the importance of winning over the local population as well as winning on the battlefield.
The ongoing commitment of British troops in Afghanistan is the gravest responsibility facing any government or parliament. We can all agree that we should bring our troops home as quickly as possible. Afghanistan is not going to be a perfect democracy any time soon but creating a settled security situation in which stable government can develop is a realistic prospect. It is why the work to train the Afghan Army so they can take over responsibility for their own security is so important.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or on 020 72197032.