Mr. Speaker, in Europe at the 11th hour of the 11th day of November 1918, buglers announced the armistice along hundreds of kilometres of bloody and muddy trenches separating the two warring sides.
Millions of men came up out of the muddy trenches, able to breathe fresh air at last without fearing that this might be their last breath.
They were then able to go home to their families with the satisfaction of a job well done. Not only had they saved their homes and their freedom, but they were also convinced that they were responsible for putting an end to such butchery, by winning “the war to end all wars” as it was called.
Millions more, however, laid to rest under wooden crosses, did not get up and go home.
Today we honour both those who gave their lives and those who were prepared to give their lives to defend our values.
Alas, “the war to end all wars” was not to be the last after all, as we know. We also honour today the children of those first soldiers, who shouldered their kit-bags and marched off to a second and even bloodier war 21 years after the first, to fight for their country and for freedom again threatened.
We must not forget all those who fell in Korea, in the United Nations' struggle against yet another incarnation of tyranny, that two-headed hydra so known to our century. Finally, 55 years after the Second World War, it seems that we are finally thinking of another group. Let us gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the merchant seamen who, during four years, braved U-boat infested waters, risking their lives to bring weapons and ammunition to their comrades in arms to ensure the victory.
Malraux said that the victory must remain with those who fought the war without liking it. That is indeed what happened.
Aviators, sailors, foot soldiers in 1914-18, 1939-45 and 1950-53, these victorious men and women fought in the war as a duty, but without liking it, because we are peaceful. Without them, without their victories, we would not be here in this free parliament.
Certainly, we will not forget them. We will make sure our children do not forget them either. Let us make sure that they know what huge sacrifices were made so they could live, worry free, in freedom and peace, these things that seem as natural as the air they breathe, but they were passed on by the sacrifices so many of their parents and grandparents paid for with their lives.