‘Very different to what we’re used to’: Party leaders mark Remembrance Day 2020

First Minister Mark Drakeford speaks with veterans over video link

First Minister Mark Drakeford

Today is Remembrance Sunday. Unfortunately this is not the first – nor will it be the last time – when I start by marking a special day or event in our calendar by saying, it “looks very different to what we’re used to”.

There will be no crowds gathering in churches, at war memorials or gardens of Remembrance across Wales to pay their respects to the generations of men and women who have served their country. Yet, they will not be forgotten.

The cruellest aspect of this pandemic is that because the virus thrives on everyday human contact, we’ve had to minimise so much of the contact we all have with each other. A far smaller number of people will attend this year’s Remembrance services in person: they will attend on behalf of us all. But, despite the challenges posed by the virus, we remain committed in our honour.

The footsteps of serving personnel and veterans marching in unison will not be as loud this year; but Wales will once again be united in its appreciation of the incredible sacrifices, which have been made.

For the first time, the National Service of Remembrance at the National War Memorial in Cardiff will be broadcast live online and can be watched from home. I will have the great honour of laying a wreath at the ceremony on behalf of everyone in Wales.

Race Council Cymru will also hold a ceremony to honour the rich contribution, which has sometimes been overlooked in our national celebrations, by all the Black, Asian and ethnic minority service personnel.

I was delighted to take part in the virtual Welsh Festival of Remembrance, which was held by the Royal British Legion online on 31 October. Other invite-only and small-scale events will take place across Wales with many local communities hosting online events, online commemorations, and virtual Remembrance festivals.

This year has been a year of significant milestones. In May and August, we commemorated the 75th anniversaries of VE and VJ days. Both of these nationally important events were affected by the pandemic. However, harnessing the spirit of that generation who came through the Second World War, we gave thanks for what they did abroad and on the home front.

As I spoke to some of the veterans via telephone and video calls, I was struck by the amazing contributions people from Wales made to that national effort. Edna Leon, from Wrexham served as a chef, keeping the war effort going; Walford Hughes, from Aberystwyth, served in the Far East campaign and supported the Burma Star Association long after his service; and Gordon Prime from Pembroke Dock, was a motorcycle dispatch rider. They are the epitome of ‘service not self’.

Today is an opportunity to reflect on the contribution our Armed Forces continue to make. During this pandemic, many have used their skills and expertise to support our NHS and local services. Serving personnel have driven ambulances and delivered PPE, built field hospitals and supported paramedics – we are indebted to them and all our critical workers for helping to Keep Wales Safe.

Other servicemen and women have been deployed overseas – as they are every year – supporting communities in peacekeeping roles or providing security and training. Service life means families can be separated for long periods of time. This year especially, that will have caused added worry and stress as the world lives under the strains of coronavirus. Today we stand with them, too.

At a time when everyone in Wales is being asked to make sacrifices, we remember the generations before us who made their sacrifices for us to live our lives the way we do today. We also remember their dedication to the collective cause.

These are difficult times for us all. Coronavirus casts a long shadow over all of our lives; no more so than on those who have suffered the loss of a loved one this year.

As we today remember all those who served and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice, let us also reflect on the huge sacrifices which so many people across Wales have made and continue to make, as we work together to keep Wales safe.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price

The pandemic has reminded all too many of us of the fragility of life. This year’s Remembrance Sunday will be a particularly poignant one.

As we came together on our doorsteps at the start of the pandemic to thank those who fought to keep us safe from harm from the virus, many of us will join together on Remembrance Sunday to remember and show support for those who have fought in conflict.

Standing at our doorsteps of our homes is a fitting way to show respect and stay safe in 2020, and perhaps the challenging circumstances will make it all the more poignant. In solidarity, we will pay tribute to veterans of war, those currently serving in the armed forces, and to remember all victims of conflict.

This year’s commemorations should provide an opportunity for sombre reflection for all who suffered and died in wars throughout our history, as we strive towards a future of peace and prosperity.

Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies

Like so many other activities this year, national and local events to mark Remembrance Sunday have been drastically affected, but even if large-scale events have been cut back, each of us can mark the occasion in our own way.

And there is much to remember this year.

It was the 80th anniversaries of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, and 75 years since World War Two ended. It is also 60 years since the Malayan Emergency ended, and within my lifetime, now an incredible 30 years since HM Armed Forces were deployed to the Gulf following the invasion of Kuwait, and 25 years since the first phase of UK operations in support of peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia ended.

Many people here in Wales will have their own memories, either of relatives who went away to take part, or perhaps even of their own experiences in these and other conflicts, and while our collective Remembrance parades and services will not take place as before, it offers us the chance for quiet, individual reflection.

Other ways in which we can show our respect include watching the RBL’s Festival of Remembrance this evening, watching the service from The Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, or the National Service of Remembrance for Wales broadcast, and observing The Silence at 11am that day.

However you intend to mark the day in this a year when we have all made sacrifices, we must not forget that many of our Armed Forces personnel have made even greater sacrifices for our country. Many have died, many have suffered grievous physical wounds, and many suffer invisible emotional and psychological scars.

We will remember them.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds

Remembrance Sunday is always a poignant event and this year, many of us will have been reminded of the fragile nature of life more than ever.

As a nation, it is right that we pause and remember those who have served their country and those who lost their lives.

Our armed forces do incredible work in some of the most dangerous and inhospitable places imaginable. We owe those who’ve served and those who serve today our sincere gratitude and respect.

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