These are not normal times. A pandemic is rife, the streets are empty, and we are all making sacrifices. Yet it is important to remember – this week as much as any – that as a country we have endured and overcome worse.
Friday was supposed to be the start of three days of national celebration for the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Most events have been postponed, like the one I was due to attend at Dover Castle. Yet under no circumstances should it stop us reflecting on the heroism that protected this nation when it faced even greater peril, heroism that secured the freedom and prosperity that so often is taken for granted.
Celebrations will have to take place in gardens, on doorsteps and in living rooms, rather than the street parties and parades envisaged before the Covid-19 outbreak. The Queen will make an address, followed by a national singalong of We’ll Meet Again.
In this area, I know we will pay special tribute to those who made sacrifices for us. Our role at the frontline, the gateway to England, our recent history as barracks towns, means we understand the importance of safety, security and military tradition.
So many local lives were lost on foreign fields – and in Dover itself. It is also just over 75 years since the end of Hellfire Corner, an appalling period for our community. In the final days, German naval gunners rained more than 50 shells on Dover, killing a soldier in a bungalow at Broadlees Road, a sailor in a pub in Snargate Street, an airman in Frith Road, and several more. This and many other incredibly moving stories from that time are featured on the superb Dover War Memorial Project website.
We must remember all of them when life returns to some semblance of normality. Because we must not let up on efforts to rebuild this special corner of the country. A beautiful regency town was destroyed by shelling. So much progress has been made in recent years – and we must keep fighting for the investment that will put it right.
And we must remember that previous generations had it worse. It is difficult to comprehend the scale of horror endured by our forefathers in that terrible war. Homes, friends and family were distant memories for those at sea, on deserts, in the skies and in the trenches.
Let us respect and honour them – not just because it is an anniversary, and not just because of the strange times that we are in. But because they deserve it every day of the year, for the rest of time.
And let us remember how they overcame the challenge of their day. By making sacrifices, by coming together, by looking out for each other.
I have been proud of how our community has swung into action. Whether it’s doctors, nurses and care workers, Super Neighbours, local businesses teaming up to supply PPE, or people simply sticking to the rules – there has been so much to admire.
So let’s get our heads down and keep going, because together we will beat this.