Norfolk’s armed forces commissioner reflects on the Great War

Tony Tomkinson, Norfolk's armed forces commissioner

Tony Tomkinson, Norfolk's armed forces commissioner - Credit: Archant

The First World War was a dreadful conflict that we should not celebrate, even though it ended in victory – time enough for that later. The cost, here in Norfolk and across the globe, was far too high.

But it is something that we must commemorate. Every memorial in almost every Norfolk village and church demands that we do not forget those who paid the highest price in a conflict that engulfed the whole world.

To the people of Norfolk, the spring of 1914, 100 years ago, gave no hint of the great and terrible events that lay ahead.

• Pot of cash will help Norfolk commemorate the First World War By the time of the signing of the armistice with Germany in November 1918 the county bore the scars of more than four years of total war.

Norfolk saw the first civilian air raid casualties when a Zeppelin dropped bombs on Great Yarmouth, but it was the appalling price paid by the frontline military that left the deepest injury. There was pride at patriotic duty performed bravely and well.

By the end of the war, the Norfolk Regiment had expanded to 19 battalions, with frontline units not only serving in France, but also in the Middle East, including Mesopotamia and Gallipoli.

But the price was high, with more than 5,000 losing their lives, and many more coming home with physical and mental wounds.

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There was scarcely a village across Norfolk that was not left mourning those who would not come home, or trying to restore the health and wellbeing of those who did.

This was reflected not only right across England and Great Britain, but across large parts of the globe. All the world's great powers were involved, but hopes that it would be 'the war to end wars' proved ill founded. The new world order that emerged could not prevent the slide into the Second World War.

The First World War has helped shape the world we live in today. It is important that our young people learn about it, and acknowledge that the peace we enjoy today owes much to ordinary people who saw fighting for King and country as their duty, and as the way to keep their homes and loved ones safe and free.

From these lessons in all conflicts, we have learnt that we need to respect the courage and bravery of our armed forces in all aspects of our lives.

We are proud that we have a considerable presence of regular and reservist service personnel in the county, and The Armed Forces Covenant signed by all local authorities in our county supports our veterans who have served or are serving.

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