Passchendaele and beyond

Events have been taking place across the UK today to mark the centenary of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres.

In a time when, with instant news coverage, we are made to feel every British life lost on a battlefield, the scale of the casualties are hard to fathom. It was a battle in which the Royal Sussex Regiment fought and several dozen young men from Crawley–a town of only a few thousand at the time–lost their lives, their names forever engraved on the walls of our Memorial Gardens.

Yet, despite the symbolism of Passchendaele, the total casualties were but a fraction of the loss of life suffered in the First World War. Nor, for those who survived, was there the support and understanding we have now of the physical disabilities and mental wounds which lingered on long after the last bullet was fired. All too often, the men who returned home faced a country unprepared for them, with high unemployment, housing shortages and rising living costs forcing veterans to go on struggling to survive.

It is right that we continue to remember conflicts of a century ago, but the way we truly honour the memory of those who fought is to ensure that no future generation is forced to relive the horrors of the past and to do all we can to help the military men and women who return home to live happy and prosperous lives.

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