One of the things I have always tried to do as MP for Solihull is use my position in the House of Commons to stand up for the men and women of our Armed Forces.
I believe very strongly that the recognition we give them every November on Armistice Day is meaningless if we don’t give them the support they need every day of the year. Many ex-servicemen and women face unique challenges when transitioning to civilian life, whether that be because of physical injury, mental illness, or any number of other issues.
Since I was first returned to represent our town in 2015, I have strongly supported the Government’s efforts to bolster the Military Covenant, the law which helps to ensure the state looks after former soldiers and encourages employers to do the same. I have backed charities such as Troop Aid, and stood up to so-called ‘tank-chasing’ lawyers who hound troops through the courts.
I received a strong reminder of why I do that recently when I met Clifford Swain, a local man who has just been awarded the Legion of Honour – the highest French order of merit. Paris has decided to bestow this honour on all those who fought to liberate France during the Second World War.
Clifford served on a tank transport during the infamous Dieppe Raid, a disastrous Allied assault on the French port in 1942. Intended to demonstrate Britain’s commitment to the continent and test our ability to take and hold positions on the French coast, well-entrenched German troops instead trapped our troops on the beach and inflicted horrible casualties.
It’s one thing to read about it in a book, but completely different hearing about it from somebody who saw it first-hand. Clifford finds it difficult to talk about, even now, but I was fascinated to hear what it was like as the ships scrambled back to Britain, trying to pick up survivors whilst being hounded by the Luftwaffe.
Men like him are an invaluable window into a history, and an important reminder of how lucky subsequent generations have been not to have experienced the horrors of total war.
Julian Knight, Solihull MP