Saturday, 13 August 2022

Silent, solemn and so grateful

HENLEY and surrounding towns and villages paid tribute to fallen servicemen on Remembrance Sunday.

HENLEY and surrounding towns and villages paid tribute to fallen servicemen on Remembrance Sunday.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Henley town hall just before 11am for a service to honour the town’s war dead.

Beforehand there was a parade featuring veterans and serving servicemen and women, civic dignitaries and representatives of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, the fire service, police and St John Ambulance as well as sea, army and air cadets, guides, brownies, scouts, cubs and beavers who carried their standards.

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

The Rev Canon Martyn Griffiths, rector of St Mary’s Church, began the 30-minute service, saying: “In recent months we have brought to mind several significant anniversaries in the stories of the First and Second World Wars and in the coming years there will be many others.

“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.”

Legion member Brigadier Malcolm Page read a passage from Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen before standards were lowered as The Last Post was sounded by Gregor Spowart, of the Woodley Concert Band.

A two-minute silence was observed by the spectators, who removed their hats and bowed their heads. At the end Reveille was played before the Kohima Epitaph was read aloud by Brig Page.

Everyone then sang the hymn Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven.

The Mayor’s cadet, L Cpl Matthew Case, 15, read the lesson from Corinthians from the steps of the town hall and Rev Griffiths led prayers.

Then the Mayor of Henley Lorraine Hillier addressed the crowd.

She said: “We know much of the dates and facts of the world wars but we cannot fully comprehend the suffering of the servicemen and women and their families both during the conflicts and after.

“We keep their memory alive even after all these years have passed because they lost their lives defending our country, protecting the freedom we have today.”

After the Mayor’s speech the crowd sang I Vow To Thee My Country.

The Act of Commitment was led by Rev Griffiths and followed by the Lord’s Prayer and National Anthem.

Wreaths were laid on the steps of the town hall by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson, the Mayor, South Oxfordshire District Council vice-chairman Paul Harrison, Dieter Hinke on behalf of Henley MP John Howell and the Royal British Legion’s Henley and Peppard branch chairman John Green.

Brian Hughes, who is the standard bearer for the branch, placed a wreath for the Henley Dunkirk veterans before kissing his fingertips and then touching the memorial on the front of the town hall.

Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the army, sea and air cadets, the RNLI, fire service, police, guides, brownies, scouts and cubs, Rotary clubs, Henley Lions, St John Ambulance, the Red Cross and Henley Round Table.

This was followed by a march past around Market Place by the cadets and community groups who were applauded by the crowd.

The service was followed by a reception in the town hall where the Mayor was given three cheers.

Councillor Hillier said: “I thought today was a fitting tribute. It really makes me very proud to be the Mayor of Henley, it’s such a privilege.

“It was a lovely service and I thought my cadet Matthew read beautifully. I thought his delivery, everything about it, was perfect. I said to him ‘your mum and dad must be so proud’. He was marvellous and that for me was a special moment. To me it means a lot because for all the years I’ve been on the council I’ve been coming to the remembrance services and watching the amount of time and care they all put into everything.”

Mr Stevenson said: “It was a very moving service and a wonderful turnout for the town, which is great to see. It was very, very special.”

Mr Green said: “Today’s service was one of the most impressive, mainly because of the terrific variety of ages of those present. It not only heightens the awareness of remembrance but focuses our thoughts and attentions on the future, which we hope will be more peaceful than our recent past.

“We must never forget that some of these young people will become politicians, leaders of society, maybe in the armed forces, and it’s their influence that will hopefully safeguard our future.” Mr Hughes, 83, of Harpsden Road, Henley, served in the Royal Army Service Corps in Egypt in the Fifties. Two years ago he discovered the name of his great uncle Pte Edward Hughes, who died in the First World War, on the town hall war memorial.

The discovery was made by amateur historian Mike Willoughby, from Woodcote, who founded the Lest We Forget project.

Speaking after the service, he said: “It’s the only way I can show my appreciation for all those that were killed or injured. It really makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

Certificates marking an agreement of affiliation between the town’s three cadet forces and the Royal British Legion were presented at the reception.

The Mayor and Mr Green gave the certificates to sea cadet Charles Washbourn, air cadet Joe Day and army cadet Lauren Hunt. Mr Green said: “Part of the ethos of these cadets is work in the community and that is also part of the Legion’s function.

“Our intention is to work together to strengthen these activities. It’s to try to ensure that the gap doesn’t widen between the old and the new but narrows.”

On Saturday, members of the army cadets collected £929.23 for the Poppy Appeal around Henley and there was a display of old army jeeps in Market Place.

Elsewhere, about 100 people, including former and current servicemen, took part in a procession through Watlington, watched by hundreds more who lined the streets.

The march was led by 91-year-old Ken Cook, of Orchard Walk, Watlington, who served on motor torpedo boats in the Mediterranean and in the Channel during the Second World War.

The Watlington Concert Band played with bugler Sarah Pullen.

About 30 wreaths were laid at the war memorial.

Jim Stubbs, secretary of the Watlington branch of the Legion, said: “There was a good turnout. The Last Post and the two-minute silence were the most important part for most people.”

The Shiplake and Dunsden branch of the Royal British Legion organised four services.

The first took place at All Saints’ Church in Dunsden at 9.15am and was conducted by Rev Michael Seymour-Jones. About 50 people attended and a two-minute silence was observed.

About 30 people then attended a short service and another two-minute silence at the war memorial where a wreath was laid on behalf of the branch and another on behalf of Dunsden Parish Council.

A third wreath was laid on the plaque for the poet Wilfred Owen, who lived in Dunsden before he was killed in the First World War.

Members of the Legion then made their way to Shiplake for a service at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, which was attended by about 60 people. There was then a service at the village war memorial, which was attended by about 100 people, including members of the Combined Cadet Force at Shiplake College.

Rosemary Jones, branch secretary and Shiplake Poppy Appeal organiser, said: “We were really pleased with the turnout and also the way the timing worked out this year as it has been a bit of a rush to get between the two villages. We had a road closure in Shiplake so we could parade to the memorial.”

In Nettlebed, about 80 people attended a service at St Bartholomew’s Church. which was followed by a ceremony at the lychgate war memorial, where the Last Post was played.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of the parish council and by Sir Timothy Elworthy, president of the Nettlebed branch of the Legion. Following the service, about 40 people had lunch at Nettlebed Community School.

In Harpsden, about 70 people attended a service at St Margaret’s Church conducted by the Rev Michael Forrer. Two standards were presented by John West for the men’s section and Mary-Jane Nichols for the women’s section.

Two wreaths were laid at the memorial inside the church, one on behalf of the Legion and the other by Kester George, chairman of the parish council. A two-minute silence was observed and Gary Howarth played the Last Post on trumpet.

About 200 people attended a service at the war memorial outside the St John the Baptist Church in Kidmore End. Eight wreaths were laid, including one on behalf of Sonning Common Parish Council by Councillor John Stoves, and a two-minute silence was observed.

This was followed by a church service given by Canon Brian Shenton, a retired archdeacon from Reading.

Members of Rotherfield Greys branch of the Legion held a joint service with Peppard at the war memorial in Peppard. The names of the fallen soldiers were read out before a wreath was laid and the Last Post was sounded by a bugler.

A service was then held at All Saints’ Church in Peppard before the congregation travelled to the war memorial near St Nicholas’s Church in Rotherfield Greys, where another wreath was laid.

In Woodcote, a contingent from the Oratory School’s Combined Cadet Force formed a guard of honour at the Woodcote war memorial, led by Senior Under Officer E Maitland-Bondonneau under the command of Wing Commander Marland Green and Capt Scott Bosher. Among those to lay wreaths was Oratory headmaster Adrian Wyles.

The school remembered in their prayers an old Oratorian, Capt Andrew Griffiths of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who died in Afghanistan in 2010, aged 26.

Old Oratorians were present at the Woodcote memorial service where the Last Post was played by school musicians Charles Dart and Benjamin Danks. Also present was villager Keith Smallbone, from the Wiltshire Regiment, who joined as a boy soldier when he was 17.

In Wargrave wooden crosses commemorating servicemen from the village who had lost their lives were planted on Mill Green in front of the war memorial.

This was preceded by a parade led by the St Sebastian’s Band and involving members of the Royal British Legion, firefighters, scouts, girl guides and other organisations.

They marched from the Bull pub in High Street to St Mary’s Church for a service led by Rev John Cook.

There was also a service at the war memorial where the Last Post and Reveille were played by the band and hymns were sung.

The names of the fallen were read out, wreaths were laid and a two-minute silence was observed. David Smith, chairman of the Wargrave branch of the Legion, said planting the crosses was a new idea, adding: “We like to get young people involved so they helped with that.”

The Bix branch of the legion asked RAF Benson to provide a fly-past and the base obliged with a Chinook and Puma helicopters.

About 60 villagers congregated outside St James Church to witness the fly-past before the names of the fallen from Bix, Assendon and Pishill and Stonor parishes were read out.

This was followed by a two-minutes silence and a service inside the church conducted by lay minister Alfie Hay.

Sq Ldr David Warren, from RAF Benson, read a letter from a First World War soldier at the front to his mother which he wrote to give to her in the event of his death.

Stanley Carter, a member of the branch, said: “It went brilliantly and we were particularly happy with the representation from RAF Benson with the fly-past coming absolutely on time at 10.47am on its way to Henley.”

The service was followed by a small drinks reception at the village hall.

Meanwhile, Hundreds of people attended a ceremony in Henley on Wednesday) to mark Armistice Day.

They gathered in Market Place for a two-minute silence at 11am, which was signalled by a bugler playing the Last Post.

The ceremony was led by Brig Page, who read Ode To The Fallen.

Mayor Lorraine Hillier stood on the steps of the town hall with fellow councillors, council staff and amateur historian Mike Willoughby,  of the Lest We Forget project, who was dressed in a First World War uniform.

Colin Davies, the Peppard and district standard bearer, Mr Green and Brian Hughes, county and Henley branch standard bearer, dipped their standards during the silence.

The bugler was Stuart Henderson, of the Scots Guards, from Reading.

Councillor Hillier said: “It’s a very moving experience. People were very respectful and loads of cars stopped and people got out to pay their respects. It is very important that we all remember and keep this moment.”

Armistice Day begins at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — the time in 1918 when the guns fell silent along the Western Front in Europe.

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