Many of you will be heartedly sick of me telling you how early I had to get up during the six months that I spent in Cyprus last year. Usually this early start was because we had to do PT (going to the gym) before it got too hot, but on the 1st of July 2016 I had a different reason. On that morning I was up at 4am. Driving through the empty streets of Nicosia to meet up with a group of my soldiers based in the United Nations Protected Area around the old international airport. My soldiers were Reservists from Northern Ireland and I was meeting up with them in the early hours of the 1st of July so that we could hold a church service as dawn broke to remember those whose lives had been lost 100 years before on the first day of the battle of the Somme. All over the world, on that day, British troops were taking part in services commemorating those who fell on the Somme. The first day of the battle of the Somme saw almost 58,000 British and Empire (as it then was) casualties. Of these 5,500 came from the 36th Ulster Division. Many of the Squadron of Ulster Reservists who gathered with me in the warmth of a Cypriot dawn were remembering great grandparents. Others remembered with pride the gallantry of that Division; four of the nine Victoria Crosses awarded during the battle went to Ulstermen. One hundred and one years ago the bravery of
our young men, and those who served in the French and German armies was only surpassed by the savagery of war. 2017 has seen many acts of heroism to equal theirs. PC Keith Palmer, GM, and other members of the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services along with so many members of the public, who responded with no thought for themselves during the terrorist attacks in London and in Manchester and during the devastating blaze at Grenfell Towers. They, along with the humbling acts of generosity made by ordinary
men and women to help those who had lost everything, help us all to keep faith in humanity in the face of terror and loss. Each of us is made in the image of God. In the face of disasters and terror attacks this can be hard to hold on to. The example of those who epitomise the highest ideals of humanity remind us of the divine spark that burns within each of us. As long as there are men and women who think of others before themselves, that spark will not go out. And the light will shine in the darkness.