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Ashcroft NEW 2013By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC. Follow Lord Ashcroft on Twitter.

There
has been a lively political debate in recent months over how Britain, as a nation,
should mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Some
lack any enthusiasm to commemorate the Great War of 1914-18, whilst others are
convinced that there should be huge events to mark the landmark anniversary.

The
Government’s approach, announced in June, is to have a four-year programme of
commemorations which “set out the facts” – but, in an age of political
correctness, without being too patriotic or upsetting the Germans.

Of
the many events that will take place, I fully support the decision to send a
delegation from every secondary school to visit First World War battlefields.
As someone who has visited more battlefields that I can remember over the
years, I know that it is only when you stand at such a location, sometimes
amongst the rows of simple graves, that you can begin to imagine what must have
gone on there all those years ago.

My
own thinking on this debate is clear: we should definitely acknowledge the
100th anniversary of this momentous conflict. It was “total war” that, sadly,
led to a scale of casualties that had never been seen before.


Some
16 million people are believed to have died as a result of the war and a
further 20 million were wounded. Some six million young men from Britain alone
served in the Armed Forces, of whom more than 800,000 perished.

I
believe that people of all ages, but particularly the young, will benefit from
a greater understanding of the causes and the horrors of the war – if only to
help avoid such a tragedy again.

We
also owe it to those who died serving King and country to remember their
sacrifice that, in turn, led to victory for the Allied Powers against the
Central Powers. Ultimately, it was a triumph for wider freedoms for us all in
the face of German aggression.

It
is my firm belief that the 100th anniversary of the Great War must be
commemorated appropriately that has led me to sponsor a series of supplements,
in conjunction with The Sunday Telegraph.

The
first 16-page supplement in the series, Inside
the First World War
, is published on Sunday. Part One is entitled “Europe
Goes to War” and a further 11 monthly supplements are planned over the coming
year.

As
a committed champion of bravery and the author of four books on gallantry, I
will be contributing to all the supplements. Each month I will tell one of the
stories behind one of the 626 VCs awarded during the Great War – almost half of
those awarded since the decoration was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856.

Each
one of the stories that I will recount is about a VC recipient whose medals are
part of my collection of more than 180 VCs that are on display in a gallery at
the Imperial War Museum.

My
first article is about Drummer (later Regimental Sergeant Major) Spencer “Joe”
Bent, who was awarded the VC on December 9 1914 for outstanding gallantry in
the early months of the war.

Despite
many close encounters with the enemy and being badly wounded, this young
Suffolk-born soldier survived the entire war and eventually continued working
part-time until he was 85. He died in 1977, aged 86.

It
is because of “Joe” Bent and many like him – some of whom survived the war,
while others did not – that I am proud to sponsor this new series of
supplements. I commend Inside the First
World War
to one and all.

*
Part One of Inside the First World
War is available with The Sunday
Telegraph this weekend. The story behind
“Joe” Bent’s VC appears in Lord Ashcroft’s book Victoria Cross Heroes. For more information, visit
www.victoriacrossheroes.com .

Lord Ashcroft’s VC and GC collection
is on public display at the Imperial War Museum. For more information, visit
www.iwm.org.uk/heroes.

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