British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid sends letter to Unknown Soldier

Posted on centenarynews.com on 26 June 2014
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British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has added his letter to more than 3,000 that have been sent to an Unknown Soldier whose statue stands on London's Paddington station.

The letters, inspired by Charles Sargeant Jagger's statue of a soldier reading a letter, have been published today and will stand as part of the official cultural programme for the First World War's Centenary commemorations.

The letters memorial website is being created by authors Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger for 14-18 NOW.

Letters have been submitted from schools, groups and individuals, and by writers including Stephen Fry, Andrew Motion, Sheila Hancock, Andy McNab, Lee Child, Lesley Pearce and Malorie Blackman.

Contributors include Gurkha trainees, retired service personnel, politicians and prisoners

Letters have been sent in from as far away as China, Brazil, USA, and the United Arab Emirates.

The site is intended to provide a snapshot for future historians of how we view the war 100 years on.

Mr Javid has written:

It’s hard to write a letter to someone who doesn’t have a name, nationality or a face I recognise.

 But I’m still going to write because, when I look at ‘your’ war with the hundred years’ perspective that the centenary allows, there’s something I want to say.

I won’t patronise you by saying I ‘know how it must have felt’, or how it all came about.  I have no idea what it must have been like, nor am I a historian.

What I do know though is that you gave your life, and did so far from home.  And if you were one of the more than nine million from the Commonwealth who fought side-by-side with British troops on the western front, you may have died a very long way from home indeed.  And done so, I know, not as a conscript but as someone who volunteered. Why?  Because you saw it as your duty - as a citizen of the Commonwealth - to fight for what it stood for, and do so in a faraway country.  

And that, I believe, is a truly humbling fact for us all today.  

I imagine you thought you were setting off to fight in a ‘just war’, with right on your side.  And I hope that, as you stand there - frozen in time and looking down at the crowds of people walking by you every day – you will take pride in the fact that, yes, what you did was worthwhile.

You see, I believe that the world we live in today, and the freedoms we enjoy, have  come about because people like you stood up for what’s right.

 ‘Your’ war wasn’t the last word, of course.  Many great – and some terrible – things have happened along the way, but the world we live in today is a richer, fairer and better place because of the sacrifices that you – and millions like you – made across the century.
This year, and every year, we remember you and give thanks.  We’ll never forget.

Sajid Javid
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Throughout the project and up until 4 August, Network Rail’s London Paddington Station will broadcast a recording of young people including students from Fortismere School in North London, reading extracts of their letters. The extracts will be broadcast at intervals each day. 

Everyone can contribute their letter, by visiting the website 1418NOW.org.uk/letter and entering it onto the site directly, or sending it by Royal Mail to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, PO Box 73102, London EC1P 1TY.

The letters will be archived by the British Library as a permanent digital memorial of the Centenary.

Posted by Mike Swain, Deputy Editor, Centenary News