It was a horrible shock to me because my father was a student in Ireland at that time; he was at King’s Inns. Gandhiji said that Indian students could help the war effort, but should not kill. So he joined up—he volunteered—as a stretcher-bearer, and there I was being asked if Remembrance Sunday meant anything to me. It was a heart-rending moment to think that all those sacrifices and all those people who had come here had got lost in the mists of time. Nobody had remembered them.

It is also a good time to remember that Britain did not have a standing army when the war started. It was the British Expeditionary Force that went to France and it was a standing army of 150,000 from India that came over in ships to help in France. They came in clothing that was suitable for warm climates, not for the November climate in France. Indians had a very hard time in the First World War. They had a hard time with the food; they had a hard time with clothing and they had a hard time with the climate, but they were still, as has already been said, 1.5 million volunteers. We must always remember that they were volunteers.

I have tried my very best—without success—to get something about the Indian efforts in the two world wars into the curriculum. I hope that next year, with the help of your Lordships, we will have that in the curriculum. After all, this is why so many people from the subcontinent are here; it is because of the time that so many of their ancestors spent in the two world

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wars. I hope that something important will happen and that we will get some general acknowledgment—not just acknowledgment from those who know, but acknowledgment from those who do not know and do not wish to know—that yes, the Indians were there and fought bravely. My father, who was a student, was a stretcher bearer, which is a horrible job because you are always under fire. We need to remember everyone. Indians comprised the second largest number of war dead by nationality in the two world wars.

9.05 pm

Lord Bates: My Lords, my desire to contribute to this debate arose originally from a wish to ensure that we focused entirely on the brutality and evil of warfare, particularly that of the First World War. In historical terms, it may be judged a war of choice, but the appalling nature of the vindictive Treaty of Versailles settlement gave rise to a much greater war, which became one of necessity. However, that point has already been made eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, who introduced this debate so powerfully. I associate myself very much with the contributions of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the noble Lords, Lord Tyler and Lord Jones, who talked about the evil of warfare. That point is illustrated by the 16 million who died in the First World War, 1 million of whom came from this country, and one of whom was my great-grandfather.

Eighteen months ago, I walked the full length of the Western Front and a little further and was shocked by the little Portland stone headstones set up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I ended up in Tyne Cot, the largest cemetery. The scale of the cemetery was designed by its architects to shock as it reflected the scale of the losses suffered, and it did so. On the wall were inscribed the words of a not inconsequential person: that is, King George V, with which I will close. He said, in opening the ceremony:

“We can truly say that the whole circuit of the earth is girdled with the graves of our dead. In the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war”.

9.07 pm

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, the whole House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Clark of Windermere for securing this debate. He deserves the congratulations of everyone who has spoken for the way in which he introduced it. I start by declaring interests as a member of the Government’s advisory board on the World War 1 centenary commemoration, a member of the Mayor of Worcester’s First World War centenary group and chairman of the All-Party War Heritage Group, in which capacity I first raised the need for the Government to be prepared for the centenary back in March 2011.

This evening I want to express my support for the way the Government are approaching this. In my view, the combination of school battlefield visits, national events, the enhancement of the Imperial War Museum, the active involvement of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the encouragement of local

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initiatives is absolutely right. I am happy to pay my tribute to the Prime Minister’s special representative, Dr Andy Murrison, for the trouble he has taken to include as many organisations and individuals as possible in the plans to commemorate the centenary. I look forward to the second meeting of the Government’s advisory board on 20 March and am very pleased to see in the Chamber the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who serves on that board with me.

In Worcester, each year we commemorate the bravery of the Second Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment which held the line at the battle of Gheluvelt on 31 October 1914 as part of the first battle of Ypres. It is not surprising that the events which the mayor is organising for the centenary as a whole are extensive. They will particularly involve young people, special exhibitions, displays of memorabilia, events at museums, tours, self-guided trails, work with schools, interpretation and restoration of war memorials. I was very pleased to hear the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, who has done so much work on drawing to our attention the importance of war memorials and their need to be looked after properly. There will also be some theatrical and musical events. Some of your Lordships may not be aware that Vesta Tilley was a Worcester girl and there will be a celebration devoted to her music. We are prepared to forgive the fact that she later went on to become the wife of a Conservative MP.

To do the job properly, it is important that our Heritage Lottery Fund application succeeds, so we await with great interest the publication of the HLF’s guidance on the new First World War grants programme when that comes out in May. One initiative that I hope will find favour is for direct descendants of World War 1 veterans to be able to parade wearing their ancestors’ campaign medals. My grandson would love to have the chance to wear his great grandfather’s medals and honour his memory as some part of the commemoration between 2014 and 2018.

9.10 pm

Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Imperial War Museum and its foundation. A leader in the Timeslast week about the history curriculum noted how, at the conclusion of Alan Bennett’s play, “History Boys”, the inspirational teacher offers the departing pupils his most important piece of advice: “Pass it on”. Quite so.

My grandfather talked to me about the First World War, when he built ships on the Clyde, and then my father, a veteran of Anzio, took me round the Imperial War Museum and told his story, rooted in the objects there: the tanks, planes, guns and bombs. He passed on his personal story through the mementoes of the past, stored for all time in a great British institution.

I am probably the last of that generation who had the privilege, and that is what it was, to hear at first hand from the combatants of those wars. Soon there will be no one left to link the future to the past. No one to “pass it on”.

That is what makes the institutions which maintain the physical records of those conflicts so vital, among which the IWM, established in 1917 when the First

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World War was at its height, is paramount. Grandparents and parents may be gone, but future generations can still see in the IWM’s galleries the stories of the causes, course and consequences of total war.

Given the importance of the IWM, the Government are to be congratulated on making a significant contribution to the museum for the renovation of its First World War galleries in a way which will make them intelligible and accessible to future generations.

There have been contributions from many philanthropists, including Lord Rothermere, whose family in the 1930s donated to the museum the building in which the IWM is now housed. They will make possible the opening of new galleries that offer a world-class experience for more than 1.3 million visitors a year, telling the story of our country’s role in the First World War, and of the extraordinary contribution of Commonwealth countries. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, that the vital role of India will be an absolutely central part of that.

It is not only within the museum buildings that the public can engage with this landmark anniversary. The Centenary Partnership, led by the IWM will bring together more than 850 partners who will deliver an international programme of events across the UK and internationally, including, vitally, a digital platform to promote a permanent legacy.

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is a moment of sombre reflection, of memories passed on and of hope and wonder at many people’s strength of spirit across the globe. I would ask my noble friend to ensure that our national institutions, which are at the centre of the centenary commemorations, continue to be nurtured and valued in a way in which those who made the ultimate sacrifice would be proud.

9.14 pm

Lord Ribeiro: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clark, for introducing this debate and for the opportunity to speak in the gap. The Royal Army Medical Corps is the second highest corps to hold a VC. It has 31 VCs awarded to 29 men. The significance of that is that only three double-VCs have ever been awarded and two of those were to medical men.

The first was given to Captain Noel Chavasse, the son of the Bishop of Liverpool. He died, as was commented afterwards, “a hero among heroes”, and was probably one of the bravest people in the First World War in that medical capacity. Doctors, after all, are non-combatants and, during the campaign, he won an MC in 1915 and his first VC in 1916 by going out to tend the wounded in no-man’s land. He carried on the next day and, despite shrapnel injuries, brought back 20 men whom he saved. He was given a VC by the King for that action. Sadly, a year later at Passchendaele, he carried out a similar courageous act and, this time, having received a shrapnel injury to his abdomen, crawled back to his trenches and died of his wounds. He was given a second VC for that. I have visited his graveside, and he has the only tomb with a double VC mentioned on it.

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The second medical person was Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake, a surgeon. He got his first VC in the Boer War and the second in the First World War, which he survived. The third person whom I should like to remember, and I am wearing the tie of Middlesex Hospital, was a student there called Captain Fox-Russell, who also received a VC during the First World War, posthumously.

I make mention of these medical men because I think that I am the only doctor in the House this evening, and we would be remiss if we did not appreciate and recognise the contribution that medical men make in wartime—particularly the terrible losses that they sustained in the First World War.

9.16 pm

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Clark for his powerful introduction and for initiating what has proved to be a moving, thoughtful and well informed debate. I cannot hope to do justice to the many wise points that have been made and, in the short time available, I shall therefore make four quick points.

First, while it is absolutely right that we should mark the centenary of the war, does the Minister agree that it is also imperative that we get the tone and language right? We should not, for example, allow the events to be commandeered to become a continuation of the jubilee and Olympic celebrations. This is about something much darker. The emphasis should be on understanding and reflecting on the lessons from the war.

Secondly, the most interesting stories are the intensely human ones—from the ferocious political arguments among our leaders and within the political parties to the wave of fervent patriotism that led a generation of young people to volunteer; and to the misjudgments of the military leaders that lead to the ultimate carnage. Does the Minister therefore agree that we need to find a way to shine a light on those human judgments and failings without taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifice of the million or more Britons who died on the battlefields, as well as those international soldiers who fought bravely alongside them. I also share my noble friend Lord Maxton’s plea that the honourable and equally brave role of conscientious objectors should be acknowledged in that regard.

Thirdly, does the Minister agree that we should pay particular respect to the artists and war poets who, for the first time in history, really shaped our understanding of war and the way that it is remembered, and the horror that is involved? Finally, how do the Government intend to pick up the points made by a number of colleagues around the Chamber on the contribution of women to the war effort, which, as we have heard, laid the way to universal suffrage and helped to shape our modern democracy?

These, among many issues raised today, are why we welcome the emphasis on creating an educational legacy to enable young people to study and visit the battlefields and consider the impact on their local communities. For many, it will be a new and shocking story from which a shared experience and understanding will grow. Fresh thinking, imagination and a debate on the nature of patriotism will all have a role in this regard. I was also interested in the proposal of the

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noble Viscount, Lord Colville, for a debate on when it is ever right to go to war. I should like such a debate to take place also as part of the commemoration.

In this context, we hope the commemoration will be dominated by an emphasis on reflection, learning and a sombre determination that we will never allow young lives to be sacrificed on such a scale again.

9.19 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I add my own thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, for securing this debate and for providing the opportunity to set out further the Government’s plans. I have listened carefully to what noble Lords have said and I apologise in advance if, given the time available, I am not in a position to respond as fully as I would like.

The First World War is integral to our history and the Government are committed to commemorating its centenary appropriately. I very much agree with the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, and my noble friend Lord Tyler made regarding tone. That is extremely important.

The scale was overwhelming with more than 16.5 million deaths, military and civilian. One and a quarter million were from the United Kingdom and what was then the British Empire alone. Remembrance lies at the heart of our plans both for those who died and for those who returned with physical and mental scars, as well as many others affected, most notably the large number of war widows. Indeed, I wish to refer to the moving speech of my noble friend Lady Fookes in that regard.

In addition, we seek to secure an enduring legacy from the centenary. Youth and education are also key themes. I am mindful of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, concerning education and heritage—a point mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie. Indeed, we also heard thoughts on legacy from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. I am also mindful of all that my noble friend Lord Cormack suggested for events and the participation of young people.

The Prime Minister announced a £53 million programme of funded activity, including more than £5 million for school visits to the battlefields, at least £6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support community projects, and national events to commemorate key moments—the first day of the war, the Battle of the Somme and Armistice Day in 2018—as well as recognising the battles of Jutland and Passchendaele and the Gallipoli landings. The programme also includes a £35 million project to refurbish the Imperial War Museum’s First World War Galleries, which will provide a highly visible centrepiece. I agree with my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood: the museum is surely to be nurtured and valued for the future. The new galleries will open next year.

It was clear from my recent meeting with the museum’s director-general, Diane Lees, that the museum is already actively supporting a wide range of activity across the UK. Its centenary partnership of almost 900 members across 25 countries brings together a programme of cultural events and activities, and digital platforms,

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which will enable millions of people across the world to benefit from the museum’s information and expertise and to discover more about life in the First World War. The noble Lord, Lord Jones, spoke powerfully about what this dreadful war really was like at the front.

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s new grants programme of at least £6 million, to be launched later this year, will encourage young people to learn more about their local First World War heritage. The reference by the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, to the need for local events and the challenge from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, concerning imaginative events very much struck home with me. I assure the noble Lord that they will be imaginative. I think that there is a lot more going on than your Lordships are aware of and indeed than I knew about before my many briefings. It is important that more people know about them.

The fund has also provided £10 million for centenary-related projects across the United Kingdom. These include £1 million for the restoration of the Belfast-berthed HMS “Caroline”, the last warship of the Battle of Jutland; a development grant award towards a heritage and interpretative centre on the Welsh bard, Hedd Wyn, who was killed in 1917; and support to Edinburgh Napier University to make its war poets collection publicly accessible. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about artists and war poets. Their contribution has been profound and I would add playwrights to that list too.

No one can fail to be moved by the large number of war memorials in every corner of the country. The noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, referred to only 50 villages in which there was not a war memorial. My noble friend Lord Cope spoke movingly about war memorials and referred to the need to protect them. My noble friend Lord Shipley spoke about the responsibility for war memorials. A number of grant schemes are available to support their maintenance and conservation and they must be cherished for the future. My noble friend Lord Ribeiro spoke of the bravery of all in the medical sector and they surely must be recognised, from doctors and nurses to ambulance drivers and all manner of people in that sector who were so brave and did so much.

While the Government are leading the nation in appropriate commemoration, we also support the participation of local communities and interests. I was mindful of the references by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to his local football club and the moving passage about its history. There is room for everyone and every interest in this programme, with no single narrative but the opportunity for people to make their own discoveries and form their own views. This is the best way to shine a light on the intensely human stories, if I may use the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I respect the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, in the context of his own family tradition.

We are marking a war that touched every part of Britain and all its people. The role of women in our society was transformed. They flocked to the factories, bus depots and farms to undertake the work of the departing men, and to care for the wounded. The

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noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friends Lady Fookes and Lady Bonham-Carter, referred to the invaluable contribution that women made to the war effort. I reassure my noble friend Lady Fookes that they will be right in the midst of the commemoration. The Imperial War Museum’s director-general informed me that 8,000 women from Australia volunteered for munitions work here. The war changed Britain. The centenary will recognise the social and cultural as well as the military impact.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to the considerable number and high proportion of deaths from Scotland. I also echo the powerful commentary from my noble friend Lord Lexden about the contribution by Irishmen, both north and south. The Administrations in Belfast and Dublin are working together on fitting commemorations and continuing reconciliation. We will also not forget that this was a war involving over 30 countries across the world, and the enormous contribution made by Commonwealth countries. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, of our eternal gratitude. The nearly 230,000 deaths among military personnel from countries now within the Commonwealth are well documented. We are working closely with our Commonwealth partners to ensure that we recognise the contributions made by, for example, the Anzacs at Gallipoli, the Indian cavalry and the South African forces on the Somme, the Canadian Corps at Passchendaele, the British West India Regiment in Palestine and many more in theatres of war around the world.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, spoke of 1.5 million volunteers from India; my noble friend Lord Sheikh spoke of his grandfather serving in Palestine and the immense contribution made by troops from India. These should be acknowledged and more is surely due. My noble friend Lord Bates referred to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is our invaluable partner, funded proportionately in relation to war casualties by its member states. Our Government provide some 78% of the commission’s funding. Many of their immaculate cemeteries will form a poignant backdrop to centenary events around the world and they are providing wise counsel on matters of sensitivity

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and tone. Beyond the Commonwealth, we are in dialogue with the representatives of more than 20 countries from both sides of the first war, acknowledging that the loss and suffering recognised no national boundaries. I think that my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter reminded us all of that.

In driving forward the commemoration, government thinking is greatly enriched by the expert advisory group. I must record our gratitude to those present tonight—my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. That group has been chosen to represent a wide range of expertise and specialism with many other noble Lords present. We welcome the lively and vibrant perspectives that they bring. The group is chaired by the Secretary of State, working with the Prime Minister’s special adviser, Dr Murrison.

While DCMS leads the programme for the Government, it is a truly cross-government effort. A professional team of officials from a number of departments is working together to co-ordinate it. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, referred to co-ordination and, having seen what I have now been briefed on, I really hope that he will not be disappointed.

The Government are working hard to ensure a commemoration that is wide in its focus, inclusive in its nature and appropriate for an event of almost unparalleled importance. We will shortly announce our plans for the opening day of the centenary on 4 August 2014, which will reflect our themes of remembrance, youth and education. There will be a number of announcements thereafter as our plans unfold. The Secretary of State and I are committed to keeping your Lordships fully informed.

It is telling that the Imperial War Museum’s conception was during, not after, the First World War. At the museum’s opening in 1920, Sir Alfred Mond described it as,

“not a monument of military glory, but a record of toil and sacrifice”.

I can think of no better words to guide our work today.

House adjourned at 9.32 pm.