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We will remember them - Bishop to the Forces on being inspired by his Grandfather who found God in the jungles of Singapore

by Donna Birrell

As millions of people stand to remember the fallen on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, the newly-appointed Bishop to the Forces says he was inspired in his faith by his Grandfather who found God while serving in the jungles of Singapore during the Second World War.

Rt Rev Hugh Nelson has been sharing his reflections on Remembrance with Premier.

He said: "I love the idea of remembering and I love the fact that after all these years, we still honour that promise. 

"We live in quite a fickle world now and we're not always very good at honouring promises. Yet, that was a promise that we made such a long time ago and we stick to it, we still do what we said we'd do. And we remember them. 

"I think for Christians remembering it's more than history. The word remember is something that we belong to - to be a member. When we remember, we acknowledge that those who have gone before us, belong to us and that we belong to them and that we're part of something whole. 

"The Scripture speaks of that repeatedly - that God remembers us as he remembers those who are going through the hardest of times. If we gather around an altar or the Lord's table for the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, we hear what Jesus asked us to do, which is to remember him as we take bread and wine. It is a deeply Godly thing to do, because it reminds us who we are."

Bishop Hugh, who is also the Bishop of St Germans in Cornwall, took on the Armed Forces role in September.

"I'm discovering something about the culture of the armed forces, something of the particular joys and challenges that chaplains in the armed forces have in front of them. 

"My role is focused on being a pastor to the pastors and chaplains in the armed forces who are literally on the front line alongside serving men and women. It's been really good to just start to get to know some of them, to start to find out how you support, care for and pray for people who are really in some of the most challenging places."

Bishop Hugh says that today and across the season of Remembrance, he is particularly thinking of his Grandfather, Jack Osbourn, who fought in the jungles of the Far East during the Second World War. 

Jack, who was born in 1920, served in Singapore with the 63rd Anti Tank Regiment RA of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry.

He was captured at the fall of Singapore in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Poignantly, like many veterans, he didn't talk very much about his experience, but he did inspire his grandson through his example.

"What he did talk a lot about was love and incredibly, he discovered faith in those jungles, which were the most horrendous places. That's what he talked to me about, not about the horrors, but about love and about God and about faith and he learned much of that in the jungles."

"As Christians, we particularly lament that the promise we made that this would never happen again, has not been fulfilled. That's a responsibility that lies before all of us. We must make a commitment for a future which is one of peace and justice rather than one of violence and injustice. 

"One of the commitments that I made when I took on the Armed Forces role is that I would pray every day for two things - for the day when there need no longer be an armed forces because the world is at peace. In the meantime, while we wait and pray for that day, I will pray for those who are serving on frontlines around the world."


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