Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Henley remembers

Henley remembers

HENLEY fell silent as townsfolk paid tribute to the fallen on Remembrance Sunday.

Hundreds of people attended a service outside the town hall in Market Place on a cold but sunny morning and began arriving more than half an hour beforehand.

Surrounding roads were closed for the traditional remembrance parade featuring veterans and serving servicemen and women, civic dignitaries including Henley MP John Howell and representatives of the Royal British Legion.

They were joined by members of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Thames Valley Police, St John Ambulance and sea, army and air cadets, guides, brownies, scouts and cubs who carried their groups’ standards.

This was followed by a fly-past by two helicopters, a Chinook and a Puma, from RAF Benson.

Rev Canon Martyn Griffiths, the rector of Henley, began the 30-minute service, saying: “My brothers and sisters, today we gather, as we do each year, to pray for peace in the world God made and peace for which so many have already laid down their lives and for which so many continue to die, day by day.

“And we remember them before God with both grief and pride and thanksgiving.

“This year, our Mayor, who served as a submariner in the Royal Navy, quite properly and appropriately has asked that this service has a naval flavour, which is reflected in one of our hymns and in the inclusion of the Submariners’ Prayer.”

Brig Malcolm Page, president of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, read the Ode To Remembrance from Laurence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen.

The Last Post was sounded by Gregor Spowart, from the Woodley Concert Band, and standards were lowered as children from the community groups followed the lead of Brian Hughes, standard bearer for the Henley and Peppard Legion.

Spectators held their hats to their hearts and bowed their heads during the two-minute silence.

Then Reveille was played before Brig Page read the Kohima Epitaph.

He stumbled as he returned to his seat on the town hall steps but was helped by Julia Yeo, unit manager for the Henley branch of St John Ambulance.

The choir from St Mary’s Chuch led the singing of Eternal Father, Strong To Save, a hymn associated with seafarers, with the accompaniment of the concert band.

The Mayor’s cadet Josie Day, 15, from Bix, read the lesson from Psalm 107 and this was followed by prayers led by the rector.

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes, a former engineering officer in the Royal Navy, read an extract from the Submariners’ Prayer. He then addressed the crowd.

He said: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys. We stand together today to honour the fallen of all of our military services not only of the two world wars but also the many other conflicts of this island’s history.

“2016 has been marked by the 100th anniversaries of the battles of the Somme and Jutland. Both witnessed significant casualties and, while we focus on the sad loss of so many lives, we should remember the many more who were wounded, their families and friends and those who were regarded as being ‘shell shocked’, which we now know as post traumatic stress disorder.

“On the first day on the Somme, the first day of a battle that lasted 143 days, the British Army lost 30,000. At Jutland the Royal Navy lost 12,000.

“May I recommend you visit the Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace exhibition in the Old Fire Station Gallery which will give you a glimpse of the terrain in which they fought? We can never fully repay the debt we owe them.

“Sadly, the Great War was not the war to end all wars. We built monuments — massive pillars of stone and metal — and placed them at the very heart of our towns and cities so they might stop us daily in our tracks.

“We collected names, wrote those names in books and, as we did here in Henley, carved them into walls in a constant effort to save those we failed from the faithlessness of anonymity.

“Everyone on the roll of honour represents a husband, father, son or brother taken, a wife, mother, daughter and sister gone. Their lives were precious to their families and, above all, to those who gave them. They never had the chance to grow old or to watch those dear to them grow old.

“There are still some six million veterans and members of the families of ex-servicemen who qualify for assistance from the Royal British Legion to whom I pay tribute for all the support they provide to our servicemen and women, our veterans and their families and their tireless work over so many years to encourage the nation to remember. While we are getting on with our daily lives, our servicemen and women are out there, day and night, fighting in terrifying conditions.

“We honour the incredible courage and sacrifice of generations of British servicemen and women who have given their lives to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today. Our thoughts and prayers turn to those currently posted abroad. We pray for their protection and more importantly, their safe and speedy return.

“We will remember them, all of them.”

The congregation then sang I Vow to Thee My Country, which was followed by the Act of Commitment.

Everyone joined in with the Lord’s Prayer and the first verse of God Save the Queen, which was greeted with salutes by some of the servicemen.

Wreaths were laid on the steps of the town hall by the Mayor, deputy lord lieutenant of Oxfordshire Marie-Jane Barnett, Mr Howell, South Oxfordshire District Council chairman Paul Harrison and Henley’s Oxfordshire county councillor David Nimmo Smith.

As they placed their wreaths, each one took a moment to bow their head.

John Green, chairman of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Legion, laid a wreath before taking his hat off and saluting.

A wreath was laid on behalf of Henley Dunkirk veterans by Mr Hughes. He kissed his fingers and touched the town hall war memorial, where his uncle Pte Edward Hughes, who died during the First World War, is listed, before saluting.

Wreaths were also laid by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, police, fire service, Red Cross, Henley Round Table, Henley Freemasons, St John Ambulance, Henley Lions Club, Henley Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, army, sea and air cadets and the scouts, cubs, guides and brownies.

The crowd applauded as the cadets and community groups marched around Market Place and past the town hall offering salutes to the dignitaries before going into Greys Road car park. After the service a reception was held at the town hall.

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