Earlier today I joined colleagues from Redbridge Council at a flag raising ceremony to mark Commonwealth Day at Karamsar Gurdwara in High Street, Ilford.
A century ago three million men and women volunteered from all corners of the world to fight for Britain. They gave up their jobs, their families and often their lives to face hardship and unspeakable horrors. Commonwealth Day provides an opportunity to remember their sacrifices.
We must not forget the sacrifices of the Indian Army in the battle of Neuve Chapelle, the anniversary of which falls close to Commonwealth Day. Every sixth soldier fighting for the British Army came from the Indian subcontinent. Neither should we forget the brave Anzacs at Gallipoli, the heroism of the Canadians at Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge and the vital contributions from African soldiers. We should use Commonwealth Day to remember the Caribbean soldiers – the majority from Jamaica – who fought in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The flag raising ceremony was led by Councillor Jas Athwal (Labour, Mayfield), Leader of the Council and Cllr Barbara White, Mayor of Redbridge 2015/16. Mr Thomas Chan Esq DL was also present in his capacity as Deputy Lieutenant for Redbridge.
Separately, the Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about the Commonwealth’s role in addressing global challenges:
“At a time of unprecedented global challenges, the Commonwealth is more important than ever – bringing together a unique family of 53 nations, spanning every continent, to promote respect and understanding and to uphold our shared democratic values. In the coming year, we should seize on the progress made at the Malta Summit and work together to strengthen the Commonwealth’s contribution to global efforts to tackle challenges including extremism, corruption, and climate change.
“It is by being a member of strong networks and international organisations such as the Commonwealth, the UN Security Council, the EU, NATO and G8 that we amplify Britain’s influence in the world. As the only country to belong to all of these organisations, we have a unique opportunity to make our voice heard and our partners value the role we can play in bringing together these different networks, so we all work together to deliver greater security and prosperity for our citizens.”