Letter to an Unknown Soldier

"Dear soldier,

It's hard to imagine what you went through. The heartbreak of leaving your loved ones behind. The fear of facing almost certain death. The nightmares that haunted your uneasy sleep...The sound of the gun shot, loud and terrifying...The shake in your voice as you muttered your final goodbyes...The mourning that could never be laid to rest. Not being able to say goodbye, to your son, brother, friend. The great pride that swelled in their hearts at the thought of you. The stories they told about you. The courage they gained from losing you. It's hard to imagine.

Yours, Ellie D-W".

On platform 1 of Paddington station stands a statue depicting an unknown soldier from the First World War reading a letter. As the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of WW1 approaches - marked with a multitude of events this Monday - I've been thinking about ways in which younger generations can engage with this milestone in world history.

Recently I invited 45 schools across the constituency to join others in creating a different type of war memorial. One made only of words. I asked students to pause, take a moment or two, and write that letter to the Unknown Soldier. The responses I received, like Ellie's from High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, have shown incredible creativity and empathy towards those that sacrificed their lives for their country.

The campaign is just one part of the wider cultural programme that is taking place all over the country.

On Monday we are inviting everyone in the UK to turn off their lights between 10pm and 11pm, leaving on a single light or candle for shared moment of reflection. A small tribute, but a fitting one.

As Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, remarked on the eve of war in 1914.

"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime"

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This column is published in The Kent Messenger each Friday where it may be subject to editiorial change.
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HELEN GRANT MP

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