On Monday 1st September BBC Radio 4's PM Programme asked Bob to broadcast a brief 'postcard' in which he was asked to explain some of what he had been doing during Parliament's Summer Recess. His broadcast words are repeated below.
On 29th July I flew to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and was briefed on the role of our troops there. I have always considered Cyprus to be a strategic jewel in our defence crown and that was, once more, confirmed by my visit. Some don’t realise that two large areas of the island, containing our air base and several garrisons, are legally as much a part of the United Kingdom as is, say, Beckenham. Our bases in Cyprus are also the places where British service personnel ‘decompress’ for a day or so en route home from Afghanistan. That short stopover – a buffer if you like between war and peace - is invaluable.
I was home by 4th August; the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. In early July I had in fact visited some World War 1 battlefields. I was particularly conscious that the Cheshire battalion I would command some 80 years later had been decimated at the Battle of Mons on 24th August 1914. The CO at the time, Colonel Dudley Boger, was the first officer to be helped by Nurse Edith Cavell – herself executed by the Germans in 1915 for aiding British soldiers.
I marked the 4th August by visiting Beckenham’s War Memorial and then attending a vigil in St George’s Church. At such times I suppose it is inevitable that my mind goes back 32 years. Tragically on 6th December 1982, in Northern Ireland, six of my soldiers were killed and over 30 wounded by a bomb at a place called Ballykelly. I remain marked by the Ballykelly Bomb.
Forgive me if I have concentrated on memories but in this anniversary year I think that may be understandable. Of course in addition I lived and worked in my constituency of Beceknham for most of the parliamentary recess - apart from a week's holiday with my family. But now all MPs are back at Westminster. We have very serious matter to debate - p\articularly what to do about the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East. Pray God we get things right.