David Lidington column: Bullet holes are reminder of Europe’s recent conflicts

David Lidington MP
David Lidington MP

One of the highlights of this year’s Weston Turville fete was the exhibition about the village during the First World War.

What was so impressive was how it captured in microcosm so much of what our country experienced in those years.

The Weston Turville Historical Society and Buckinghamshire Remembers had researched the stories of the men who went off to fight.

There were their photographs, letters and postcards- and those of the families and friends left behind.

It was a salutary reminder that these were not just names on a war memorial or muster roll, but men with hopes, loves and dreams as real as ours today.

There were references too to how the conflict changed the village and its neighbourhood, for example the opening of what is now RAF Halton.

At one level, my response to the exhibition was simple admiration for the work involved and the expression of community identity and affection that it represented.

But I also had in my mind a recent visit to Sarajevo, where the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June28 a century ago triggered four years of agony and slaughter in Europe.

On a sunny day in the old town, those events seem an age ago.

But then you look around and notice the bullet and shrapnel marks in the walls –the scars of the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s.

And the cemetery close to the British Embassy has far, far too many white headstones from that time. Memories of ethnic cleansing and of genocide in towns like Srbrenica are still raw.

Still today, British troops are serving in an EU peacekeeping force in Bosnia. It’s a reminder that even in our own neighbourhood we can’t just assume that peace is guaranteed.

We are right to remember the suffering and the sacrifice of the Twentieth Century’s world wars. And it’s important not only to pray for peace, but also to work with our European and international allies to promote reconciliation and allow clashes of national interest to be resolved in the conference room rather than on the battlefield.