Remembering the Battle of Passchendaele

Monday 31st July marked one hundred years since the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, little progress was made during the offensive which lasted more than three months and saw around 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties.

Across the country including here in Crawley, we remember the fallen. The Heroes Walk in the Memorial Gardens has been replanted by Central Sussex College students to mark 21 soldiers from our town who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.

The Houses of Parliament have also been paying tribute with a new exhibition, Parliament and the First World War, which has been set up in Westminster Hall.

It features stories of men and women connected to Parliament, including members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, whose lives were personally affected by the outbreak of the war.

Anyone coming to view the exhibition will also see a light projection featuring the names of 46 parliamentarians and 26 parliamentary staff who lost their lives during the conflict.

One of the more poignant ways in which Parliament pays tribute to the fallen is to include their names on the daily Order Paper. Lieutenant the Hon Francis Walter Stafford McLaren, of the Royal Flying Corps (and MP for Spalding), died on 30th August 1917 as a result of injuries sustained after his aircraft crashed during a training flight off the coast of Scotland.

There are 19 shields in the House of Commons chamber each paying tribute to MPs who died during the course of the war, including Lt McLaren. Other MPs who have died while serving in Parliament are also remembered in this way, the most recent being my late parliamentary colleague, Jo Cox.

The exhibition also features the Defence of the Realm Act which led to major changes in the lives of those on the ‘Home Front’ – particularly the women whose careers changed greatly, as they stepped into the roles which had previously been occupied by men.

This moving display is in Westminster Hall until 28th September 2017.

Henry Smith MP