Remembrance Day in London, 10 November 2014

Speech by State Secretary Øystein Bø at Remembrance Day in London, 10 November 2014.

Speech by State Secretary Øystein Bø at Remembrance Day in London, 10 November 2014.

 

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Dear veterans, Minister of State, Ambassador,

Flag officers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to share this important day with you. 

Our two nations share centuries of common history. Our royal families are related. We are close trading partners. Common values have shaped our societies; freedom, human rights and democracy. During war and peace, Great Britain and Norway, have fought side by side to defend these values.

A strong and durable bond has been forged between us, and between our armed services. Hence, celebrating this day together, comes naturally to both Britons and Norwegians.

On a day like today, we commemorate all those brave men and women who were willing to "take that one decisive step forward" to defend a free and independent Europe, during the dark and sometimes desperate years of the First and Second World Wars.

And, we pay tribute to those who have been fighting in other campaigns such as in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and in various UN operations.

On a day like today, we also commemorate all those left behind. Those who carry the heavy burden of losing their loved ones to the horrors of war. Loosing a mother or a father, or the one you most of all wanted to share the rest of your life with, is a high price indeed.

2014 marks the centennial of the beginning of the First World War. During the four bleak years from 1914 to 1918 the United Kingdom suffered incredible losses. There was hardly one family that was not affected.

The soldiers, who gave their lives, are celebrated and honoured through a whole range of commemorations and memorials.

The flower exhibition at the Tower of London is a moving example. Each and every flower marks a life lost. Each and every flower marks a tragedy. Each and every flower was a unique, young and aspiring human being, robbed of a life, a history, a family, a future.

Even "neutral" Norway suffered our losses during the First World War. Thousands of sailors of the Norwegian merchant fleet fought for their lives on the oceans separating Norway and the United Kingdom. Caught unaware and unprepared, they suddenly found themselves in the front line of the war.

With funding from the United Kingdom, a memorial hall was erected at Stavern, south west of Oslo, in remembrance of the sailors who lost their lives in the struggle for a free Europe.  Facing the ocean, the hall became a lasting and powerful reminder of the wet grave that became the destiny of many Norwegian sailors a century ago.

The sacrifice our soldiers and resistance fighters made, so that we, and our children, can live our lives in peace and prosperity, simply cannot be underestimated. We owe them a lifetime of gratitude. I am reminded of this every time I have the honour of meeting one of our veterans, and realise what he or she has done on our behalf.

I am, therefore, grateful, that Richard «Dick» Zeiner-Henriksen from Company Linge, along with Jacob Strandheim from the Shetland Bus, have been able to join us today.

Dick participated in a number of significant and dramatic sabotage operations on various locations throughout Norway.

Jacob made a total of 54 North Sea crossings, transporting troops, weapons and other supplies, as part of the Norwegian resistance effort.

Both of you went far beyond the call of duty, and you carry powerful memories from the war years.

Dick and Jacob - you, and your fellow fighters, were the heroes of boys like me when we grew up.

It is an honour to meet you here. I bow my head in deep respect and appreciation for what you did for the future of the rest of us.

I am grateful that several British WW2 veterans have joined us today, as well. This bears evidence to the close relationship between our two nations. You British have an ability to never give up, to always believe that in the end, good will prevail. The line "Keep calm and carry on" says it all.

To my mind, that fighting spirit was crucial to the outcome of the war 70 yeas ago.

Today, we are again experiencing that one European state has used military force to occupy and destabilise a neighbouring country. We are reminded that freedom can never be taken for granted. Hence, we must forge our collective security and defence, and remain vigilant, as our heroes did.

 

Dear friends,

Peace must be won every single day. That was exactly what you realised, those of you who were fighting on our behalf in two world wars, and those who later have been signing up for international operations. 

We must never allow ourselves to forget what you, and they, have being doing for us. And, as important, we must make sure that our children, and future generations, do also not forget. The history of the horrors that war bring with it, must be kept alive, so that we never have to face them once again.

Please join me in raising our glasses to those who made our future possible.