Last weekend saw our community and whole country pay respects to all those who have seen action in our Armed Forces and everyone affected by war.
My own family served on three continents in World War II: Europe, Asia and Africa but sadly I have just one relative left who saw action.
Shockingly, in the last century, there was just a single year in which no UK service personnel died in service. I was proud to attend and lay wreaths on behalf of everyone in Bermondsey and Old Southwark at a number of services, including: at City Hall; on West Lane; at the memorial to the Queen’s Regiment on Old Jamaica Road; at the St Saviour’s memorial on Borough High Street; and at the Imperial War Museum. I’d like to thank everyone who participated over the weekend, especially as remembering former and current sacrifices comes at a time of political flux and volatility, with the re-emergence of extremism in Europe and beyond. Worryingly, 60,000 people appeared at a Fascist rally in Warsaw last week and the counter extremism group I co-chair in Parliament heard last week that over a thousand far-right referrals were made to the police in the U.K. last year alone.
I joined the excellent local poppy sellers at their Bermondsey station stall last week where I was honoured to meet Joseph Eagle who is 96 and grew up (and still lives) in Bermondsey. Joseph joined the RAF aged just 18 in 1939, and fought for our country throughout World War II. He and all the Bermondsey poppy sellers raised good sums for the British Legion and I thank everyone for their generosity.
Sadly, I also recently attended the funeral of George Stevens at St Mary’s in Rotherhithe. George was a great local character who used to entertain me with stories of former elections; I even had a video of him singing and dancing to a more risqué campaign ditty! The funeral was touching, with stories of his escapades, but I know Joyce and his family will all miss him greatly. I was glad to have been able to pay my respects.
In the run up to Christmas I am mindful of the need to ensure no local older people are isolated or excluded from festivities. The pressure is on to secure plenty of volunteers on the big day at Bacon’s College and Guy’s Tower to ensure everyone gets a Christmas dinner and company. If you can help for an hour or more, please drop me a line at: Neil.Coyle.MP@Parliament.UK or call: 020 7219 8733. I’ll be at both for much of the day – as well as trying to make Esme’s second Christmas as special as possible!