Today’s Star columnist: David Blunkett

David Blunkett, Brightside and Hillsborough MP
David Blunkett, Brightside and Hillsborough MP
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As a Member of Parliament for the City, I have always attended the Remembrance Day services, not because I felt it my duty to do so as an MP but because I wanted to.

When Home Secretary, I had no choice but to miss the service in Barkers Pool because I was expected to be at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. This year, I was faced with three options, two of them in Sheffield and one in a village in Norfolk.

Some readers will remember Nicolette Williams and Ann Fellows, mothers of young men killed in Afghanistan, who had raised money for a magnificent memorial in Shiregreen cemetery and I had been proud to assist them in making their dream become reality. The choice was a difficult one but my Remembrance Sunday was spent in Norfolk.

There outside a small village church, is a monument on which the name of Walter Blunkett, my father’s cousin, is commemorated. The service included readings about eight of the men killed from that small village of 200 souls, touched me deeply, for with the help of locals I was able to identify the place he called home and the circumstances of his death in 1917 at the age of 22.

For me the day was made more poignant by the fact that the bugle player turned out to be a teacher at a local school whose class had been visiting the war graves at the same time as I was there in October 2013. He told me they had found Walter’s grave and had seen me in a café close to the cemetery but had not spoken as they did not wish to intrude on a family visit. I learned too that village children had planted flower seeds on the graves of all eight men from the village.

I was so glad I made the journey and felt the village had embraced me and given me chance to properly commemorate, and yes, to celebrate the life of the son of a farm labourer and who, in the 1911 census, is described as a page boy.

Now, 100 years later, it is my chance to say thank you to the villagers of Kettlestone which will forever be linked in my mind with the Huq Crater Cemetery where Walter lies.

We surely owe it to future generations to ensure that our commemoration is to make a better world, free of hate and filled with hope for the future.