The most powerful words of Remembrance Sunday for me are: “when you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.
On September 20 this year, my family and I travelled to the Tyne Cott Cemetery at Ypres. On the same day in 1917, my great grandfather, Harold Edward Shelbrooke (or Ted as he was known), was killed in the first day of action at the Battle of Menin Road.
He had been injured in the opening fighting and was being stretchered back. His young brother in law, who was just 17 at the time, and who had lied about his age to join up with Ted, witnessed a shell explode near the stretcher party and my great grandfather was never seen again. It is unknown whether he was blown to pieces or drowned in the mud.
As a 33-year old, Ted had a young son of just 20 months old. May Shelbrooke, my great grandmother, could not accept that Ted had died as his body was not found.
She wrote constantly to the British Red Cross for over three years to see if he had been taken prisoner.
When she was sent the famous “War Penny” she threw it across the room exclaiming “I don’t want a bloody penny. I want my husband”.
In September, as I stood looking at Ted’s name on the wall at the back of the cemetery, with the thousands of names of men who were never found, among the thousands of headstones in the biggest British war cemetery in the world, the sacrifice and words, “they gave our today” rang out in my mind.
There is only one reason that men die in war and that is the failure of politicians. Whether they be modern day politicians in western democracies, dictators, or even emperors and biblical figures, all wars have been the result of politicians either failing to come to terms, or purposefully heading on a path of destruction.
As the Vice Chairman (International) of the Conservative Party, I work with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
This body was established by Sir John Major in 1992 to help train sister parties in the emerging East European countries so they could work in a functioning democracy.
This work has expanded to several areas of the globe and each of the main political parties has a role with its own sister parties.
As part of a NATO Assembly visit to Sarajevo last March, I gained a more in-depth understanding of the tensions that exist to this day and are getting tenser in Bosnia and other surrounding countries.
It is only the fact that many of today’s politicians fought in the war of 1992 to 1995 that the situation has not descend again into conflict.
However, it is important that we can support and build alliances and stabilise their democracies, increase their trade and build their economies, so that these aspects may create a greater loss to their country than another war could gain.
This may not work but I am determined we should try and do everything we can today to prevent war in the future.
As a politician, at times of conflict my colleagues and I are asked to vote on sending troops to war. I think it is, therefore, vital that I make every effort to understand the complex political and military situations across the world, so I can do everything I can to prevent people being forced to give their todays, for our tomorrows.