We must do better to show our gratitude to our brave servicemen and women

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Ipswich Borough Council leader DAVID ELLESMERE pays tribute to those who died in the First World War - but says that today, we must still strive to do more to support servicemen and women from all conflicts.

Today hundreds of thousands of people across the country stopped to remember the dead of all wars.

The fact that Remembrance Day this year was also the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War made the ceremonies particularly poignant.

This war still haunts the national consciousness - the scale of the mechanised slaughter and the effect on all aspects of life on the home front, nothing like this had ever been seen before.

Most villages in Britain, however small, have names of soldiers from the First World Ward on a memorial.

St Mary at Stoke, where I attended a service to dedicate a new memorial to the fallen, lost 88 men in the war. This gives some idea of the scale of the loss of life. Every single person in that parish would have known friends, family and neighbours who were killed in the war.

The other reason this war still haunts us is because of the seeming futility of it – the feeling that the sacrifice of all those young lives was for nothing.

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It was supposed to be “the war to end all wars” but the harsh terms imposed by the victors on Germany led to the rise of Hitler and, within 20 years, the even greater calamity of the Second World War.

The soldiers who returned were promised a “land fit for heroes” but this too failed to materialise.

The homes they were promised were not built. There were no support services in place for the wounded. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was barely even recognised. Maimed ex-servicemen begging on the streets were a common sight in the 1920s.

This is still a problem today. While the help veterans receive has improved immeasurably since the end of the First World War, many still face severe problems adjusting to civilian life.

Thousands are sleeping rough or facing long waits to access help to cope with their experiences on active service.

These brave men and women have risked their lives to protect our country. As a nation we must do much better to express our gratitude and appreciation to them, not just through our words on November 11 but through our actions all year round.