The fallen soldiers of World War I must not be forgotten as Britain mourns those killed in the current battles in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said as the country prepared to mark Remembrance Sunday.
Though Britain’s Harry Patch, the last soldier to fight in the Great War trenches of Europe, died in July, the sacrifices of his generation must never be forgotten, Brown said.
And the families torn apart by the conflict in Afghanistan must also be remembered, the premier said in a podcast.
“This year’s events will be particularly poignant because this summer we witnessed the passing of the last Tommy, Harry Patch.
“With his death, an entire generation has fallen silent and we have lost our living link with the momentous events which did so much to shape our nation.
“We must make anew our promise to Harry and his comrades: that although they are gone, we will never, never forget.”
However, Britons must also think about “all those who have been killed in Afghanistan this year — heroes who have lost their lives on Afghan streets so that we might be safer on Britain’s streets,” Brown said.
“Each life lost represents a family in mourning — a table with an empty space this Christmas, a father who will not be there to walk his daughter down the aisle, a parent who has had to bury their child too soon and a partner who has lost the person they hoped to grow old with.
“And so it is our sacred duty to celebrate the courage of the fallen; to honour their extraordinary sacrifice; and to remember them with pride.
“We owe them — and all our war dead — a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay.”
Patch, Britain’s oldest man, died in July at the age of 111. He fought at the notorious Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 — where an estimated half a million troops perished.
He was the last World War I veteran to have served in the trenches.
Of the eight million British soldiers who fought in the Great War, only 108-year-old Royal Navy veteran Claude Choules, who lives in Perth, Australia, remains.
Queen Elizabeth II is set to lead the annual Remembrance Sunday service and parade in central London, paying tribute to the thousands of men and women who died in world conflicts.
The event, before the simple white marble Cenotaph, marks the sacrifice of British and Commonwealth soldiers.
Senior royals, political leaders, military chiefs and Commonwealth high commissioners lay wreaths at the stone monument.
Thousands of ex-servicemen and women, civilian organisations plus the families of those who died on active service then parade past the Cenotaph.
In the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, many Britons wear a paper red poppy — symbolising the poppies which grew on French and Belgian battlefields during World War I — in their lapels.
The proceeds from poppy sales go to veterans’ organisation the Royal British Legion.
Queen Elizabeth and Brown attended the Royal Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday.
Ex-servicemen and women gather for the ceremony, during which scarlet poppy petals fall from the dome to represent all those who have died in combat.