Eric Pickles is today (10 March 2014) proudly flying the Commonwealth flag outside his department to mark Commonwealth Day.
The Communities Secretary said the centenary of the First World War meant it is even more important than usual this year to honour the sacrifices of soldiers from Commonwealth countries, with a new series of lectures on their contribution receiving a remarkable response from young people.
New figures show that the Curzon Institute lectures on the Commonwealth contribution to World War One have been a huge success. More than 3,500 students have attended 29 lectures with 30 more in the pipeline.
This year the UK also hosts the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games, which the minister said would be another opportunity to celebrate the success of our historic partnership and its enduring influence on our country.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is taking part in Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the Virdee Foundation to celebrate the historic family of nations. This is expected to be the largest, mass single raising of the flag in the association’s history with over 500 flags expected to be raised by local authorities and community groups across the country.
At the raising of the flag, where he was joined by Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State said it was the perfect time to be reminding people of the Commonwealth’s importance to our country.
Eric Pickles said:
The Commonwealth is a huge part of our heritage which unites all corners of our country and all of our communities.
This year it is even more appropriate to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by soldiers from across the Commonwealth in World War One. Commonwealth Day is one of a number of ways we are marking that contribution.
We can all celebrate the Commonwealth’s success in bringing us together around our common history and its flag is an important symbol of that, just as the Glasgow Games will be in the summer.
Faith and Communities Minister and Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Baroness Warsi said:
I am proud to support Commonwealth Day and glad that the Commonwealth contribution lectures are receiving such a positive response. These talks are a great chance to educate a new generation in the sacrifices made by our great grandparents from across the globe, whether they be Tariques or Tommies.
The figures show that there is a terrific appetite for schools to take up this opportunity and Commonwealth Day is the perfect time for this to happen.
In the United Kingdom, over 500 Commonwealth flags are expected to be raised by local authorities and community groups, culminating in Her Majesty The Queen attending the annual Commonwealth Observance (service) in Westminster Abbey.
The Curzon lectures explore the stories and bravery of Commonwealth soldiers who fought thousands of miles from their homeland, for a country they had never been to - but who came together for a common purpose and who were fundamental to sustaining the war effort.