Today, we mark the centenary of the First World War, and remember all of those who gave their lives in combat. On this day it is important to highlight the value of the contribution of soldiers from across the Commonwealth who fought in WWI. Over 1,100,000 Commonwealth soldiers died fighting in the war. Today is a day to pay homage to their memory and to acknowledge that many of them died fighting based far from home. This makes their sacrifice all the greater.
Organisations such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission work year-round and across the world to ensure that those that fought are commemorated. A memorial to Commonwealth soldiers who fought in WWI, The Memorial Gates, stands in Hyde Park Corner, at the end of Constitution Hill. Memorials such as this stand across the Commonwealth. The UK government last year announced a flagship programme of multimedia presentations and lectures, as part of the government’s centenary commemorations, which reveals the crucial contribution of the Commonwealth countries during the First World War.
These efforts go some way towards recognising the vital contribution that Commonwealth servicemen and women made in many different roles on land, at sea, and in the air, in a war that was fought all over the world. It is vital to our commemoration that these efforts continue, so that the war is neither sanitised nor misremembered. WWI was not a glorious or a great war. It was brutal and chilling and savage. It is important that we remember it for what it was; that we remember that those who died often had no choice but to fight; that we remember that it was a step towards achieving the freedoms we enjoy today, but that it did not achieve those freedoms for all.