While the period of Remembrance focuses people’s minds around the world on the sacrifice of those who fought and fell, the thoughts of many people locally, including myself, will be on those from Barnsley who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Festival of Remembrance at St Mary’s Church and the Remembrance Sunday service in front of the Town Hall are just two of many events taking place locally that provide an opportunity for people to pay their respects.
Just as it was after the Armistice of 1918, every community has its own story of loss to tell, including in recent years the terrible losses of Private Matthew Thornton of The Yorkshire Regiment, Marine David Marsh of The Royal Marines, and Captain Martin Driver of The Royal Anglian Regiment.
Three young men from Barnsley who stepped forward to answer the call – just like their forebears – but didn’t make it home.
This year’s period of Remembrance also includes two unique local events that provide additional opportunities for us to reflect on those who fell in service of our country.
The first is the unveiling of the Holgate Memorial at Shaw Lane Sports Club which pays tribute to the 98 Old Boys of Holgate Grammar School who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Second World War. After 10 years in storage, thanks to the hard work of local people and BMBC’s willingness to loan it, I’m pleased it will be back on display. The Old Boys’ stories are an important part of our Town’s history.
The second is the unveiling of a memorial stone at Barnsley Town Hall in honour of Sergeant Ian McKay VC, the platoon sergeant of 4 platoon, B company, 3 Para who was killed at the Battle of Mount London during the Falklands War.
I remember hearing of Sergeant McKay’s selfless heroism for the first time as a young paratrooper. Now, a quarter of a century on, I feel very proud to be an MP in the town where he was born. It’s a story that has stayed with me ever since and occupies a legendary place in the annals of airborne history.
It was the night of 11 and 12 June, in the face of overwhelming opposition from the Argentine forces, and with the rest of his platoon killed or wounded, Sergeant McKay – without thought for his own safety – advanced on the enemy and successfully relieved two platoons under heavy fire.
At the moment of victory, Sergeant McKay was killed.
There is no doubt that his actions were pivotal to the British victory on Mount Longdon, and for his heroism, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Part of his citation reads:
With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.
As we remember Sergeant McKay VC and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we must continue to strive for the brighter and more peaceful future that they fought for.
We must also continue to fulfil our promise to stand united, to find strength in our shared history, and to confront the challenges of today with the unwavering resolve that has defined us throughout our history.
For me, that’s what Remembrance is about and that is why it is so important that we continue to gather and to show our unwavering commitment to remember the past, as we work to shape a more peaceful and just future.
In Barnsley, we will remember them. We will remember them.