• Lest we Forget

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    17 November 2017

    Last weekend brought Remembrance Sunday. Every year I attend a service and lay a wreath in one of the larger towns within the consituency. Last year I did so in Crediton – this time I was in Ashburton.

    There are many war memorials across Central Devon – many in small villages where those that fell in the First World War would have represented a significant proportion of the local community and almost all of them young men. This was truly a conflict of unimaginable slaughter. The first industrialised war of the tank, the machine gun and gas.

    The date of Remembrance Sunday reflects that conflict. It is set as the Sunday closest to 11th November, the date of the armistice that marked the end of the First World War. The so-called ‘Great War’ when at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent. That the Great War was so horrific was the cause for many to refer to it as ‘the war to end all wars’ - though history was less kind than that noble intent and Remembrance Sunday honours those of many other conflicts with which our country has engaged. The wreaths are of poppies recalling the fields of those bright and hopeful flowers that rolled over many of the war-strewn wastes of what had once been the Western Front.

    At services throughout the land, a bugle sounds the Last Post (which in military life represents the end of the day or the final farewell), followed by the two minutes silence before the sounding of the Reveille (the Rouse) and the recitation of the Ode of Remembrance or ‘For the Fallen’, the most well known stanza of which reads:

    "They shall grow not old, as we that are left to grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning: We will remember them."

    This is perhaps the moment of greatest reflection.

    Our local ceremonies were held amongst many thousands of up and down the country. At the Cenotaph in Whitehall, The Queen, The Prime Minister and other dignitaries and service personnel laid their wreaths. There was the tradional march past.

    Many of these ceremonies including that at the Cenotaph are organised by The Royal British Legion. They are the custodians of Remembrance and organise the annual poppy day appeal. They do much else besides. They and their hundreds of thousands of members provide welfare services for both serving and ex-Service personnel and help around 100,000 people a year spending over a million pounds a week on welfare services alone.

    It is they who negotiate with such dignity the issues of the memory of the past and the needs of the present - in recognition of the service of the millions of our fellow countrymen and women who have served our country from the Great War through to the present day.