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MP welcomes Lottery funding boost for Mayflower pilgrims plans

Sir Edward Leigh MP
Sir Edward Leigh MP

The voyage of the Mayflower was one of the most important sailings in the history of England and indeed of the world, writes Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough.

It’s not widely known that many of the Puritans who boarded the Mayflower to sail to Massachusetts Bay had their origins here in Lincolnshire.

West Lindsey Council has secured a grant of £450,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project to help commemorate the Pilgrims’ history.

These plans include a new enhanced Pilgrims Trail pointing out the key related heritage sites in Gainsborough.

New information boards will help teach history at eight key historic sites to help locals and visitors alike know more about the Pilgrim heritage here.

The 400th anniversary of the Mayflower in 2020 is approaching rapidly and I am glad it will be suitable marked here in West Lindsey.

Speaking of ships, I was very pleased to hear that the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, has reassured us that HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion will be retained as an essential part of the Royal Navy.

These two amphibious assault ships provide Her Majesty’s Government with the ability to land a force of 5,000 men on shore even in the face of active opposition.

They have proved immensely useful in the British contribution towards combined military operations in the recent past, for example the seizure of the al-Faw peninsula during the Iraq War.

I maintain my opposition to the Iraq War, but it remains that this country needs to have a full range of options at hand – military or otherwise – when it comes to defending British interests abroad.

History has shown us time and again that you can never accurately predict which threats you may face five or ten years down the line.

In the 1980s, we were in the process of selling disused Royal Navy vessels to Argentina when that country invaded the Falkland Islands.

It was not imagined that they would be any sort of threat to sovereign British territory, but the unimagined becomes real every single day and unpredictable ways.

The defence of the realm isn’t just about high-tech kit and machinery – it’s about human beings too.

We need the soldiers, sailors, airmen, officers, mechanics, technicians, and others to keep our defence capabilities up to snuff.

My own children have found their experiences in the cadets rewarding and it’s an excellent way of introducing young people to the possibility of a future in the armed forces.

Independent research has recently shown that the cadet forces results in improved motivation, better school attendance, less anti-social behaviour, and greater academic success.

Even those cadets who carry on in civilian life have learned useful skills and gained confidence in themselves as well, I hope, as a sense of belonging.

Expanding the cadets is good for pupils themselves and for the rest of society so I welcome the announcement Government plans to expand towards a total of 60,000 young people in school cadet units nationwide.

This is a sound investment in the future of Britain.