Wednesday, 12 November 2014

As the Tower of London poppies get taken down thoughts on Remembrance Sunday in Hexham

Hexham was packed last Sunday for the 11 o'clock service and the service in the Abbey. The town turned out in force to the clear voice of the Reverend Michelle Dalliston, and see the dozens of local organisations who had gathered to pay their respects; the parade was led by the well drilled troops of 39 RA and supporting cadets, ATC, and many more, all marshalled with military precision by the team from Hexham Town Council.

Before the service of remembrance - just to my left in the picture, albeit half out of shot - was the wonderful Mayor of Metzingen, Dr Ulrich Fieldler. We talked [him in his near perfect English, me in my very poor German] of the importance of the occasion and the fortune that our lives have not been scarred by full scale war on the European continent. It was a pleasure to help welcome him to our town.  

The note I wrote on my wreath remembered my grandfather who survived WW2 and the cousins of his who died at Dunkirk, and elsewhere: the most poigant moment for me was the descriptions of the young men who passed away and the wonderful Flight Sergeant Ronnie Watson who attended to lay a wreath on behalf of all veterans.

We then went to the Abbey for a formal church service, where the 39RA Padre the Reverend Chris Groocock gave a sermon on the significance of the Tower of London field of poppies and reminded us of the John McCrae poem that inspired the poppy wearing that we all now take for granted: details are here: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm.
My thoughts went back to the Falstone event I attended with the Duchess of Northumberland 3 weeks ago to commemorate the opening of a new war memorial - these 2 wars took so many of our men from us. That day and Sunday also were truly moving. The full McCrae poem is set out below.

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."