Tuesday, 24 November 2020

We will remember them

We will remember them

MORE than 100 people attended the Remembrance Sunday service in Henley.

Under the current government covid-19 guidelines, a maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend outdoor events.

But a crowd assembled outside the town hall in Falaise Square for the annual ceremony while observing social distancing guidelines.

The service was scaled down due to the pandemic so there was no traditional parade or guard of honour.

Only six officials were allowed to take part, including Mayor Ken Arlett, Rev Jeremy Tayler, the rector of Henley with Remenham, and Anne Evans, who chairs the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion.

They were at the top of the town hall steps while Legion branch president John Green stood at the bottom holding the standard with spectators, including town councillors, dotted around the square.

The ceremony began with Rev Tayler addressing the crowd. He said: “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 grief and pride and thanksgiving.

“We pray for all who suffer still because of war and terrorism and we ask for God’s help and blessing for ourselves that we may do his will and that the whole world may acknowledge him as lord and king.

“So now let us remember before God our Father and commend to his love and sure keeping, the souls of those who have died for their country in war, those whom we knew and those whose memory we treasure and all who have lived and died through the ages in the service of their fellow men and women.”

Mrs Evans read the Ode to Remembrance from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen.

Bugler Stuart Henderson then sounded the Last Post as Mr Green lowered the standard.

This was followed by a two-minute silence during which most of the crowd bowed their heads as a mark of respect.

Reveille was sounded to mark the end of the silence and Mrs Evans then read the Kohima Epitaph.

Rev Tayler then led the crowd in a prayer before the Mayor addressed them. Councillor Arlett said: “With government guidelines now in force due to the covid-19 pandemic, Henley Town Council, along with the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, agreed to carry on with this remembrance service in honour of those who sacrificed their lives in the conflicts of war for our freedom.

“We are now all fighting an enemy that we cannot see, the covid-19 virus.

“I wonder what our service heroes of the First and Second World Wars would think of the disruption the virus has caused us, compared with the sacrifice they gave, either with their lives, through being a prisoner of war or fighting in atrocious conditions.

“Covid-19 lockdown has already caused the cancellation of the celebrations for VE Day, the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, which ended on May 8, 1945.

“The Royal British Legion did manage to hold a small ceremony in the market place on August 15, which I attended, to celebrate Victory in Japan Day, which I thank them for.

“Last year my theme was for an old Henley war hero, Dick Charlton, who fought in the Second World War. Dick was part of the Oxon and Bucks 4th Battalion that kept the Germans back as allied troops retreated to Dunkirk.

“A number gave their lives, others held firm until they were totally overrun and captured. Some spent over four years in prisoner of war camps.

“If it had not been for the likes of the Oxon and Bucks 4th Battalion and other units, thousands of troops would never have made the journey back to England in the ‘Little Ships’.

“Dick’s wife, Doris, died on Boxing Day last year. Since then Dick has been residing in care homes, firstly in Didcot and now in the Chilterns Court Care Centre on the Townlands site.

“Dick was 100 years old on June 2 this year. Through the Henley Standard and Henley Herald, I asked if residents could send a birthday card to him and the people of Henley did not let me down.

“Some 200 birthday cards were received by Dick for which, on his behalf, I thank you all.

“Once we are free of this pandemic, I am sure Dick would like to talk with anyone about his experiences. It just takes a phone call to make an appointment to visit him at the care home.

“The Royal British Legion plays a major part leading up to the Remembrance Sunday service by asking for donations for poppies and this money pays for lifelong support for our British armed services.

“The poppy first came into prominence on November 11, 1921, so we are fast approaching its centenary — what a wonderful idea the poppy was to raise money.

“Once again the dreaded covid-19 has caused major problems with the Legion’s street and house collections having to be cancelled.

“This will drastically reduce the funds being raised this year compared with previous years.

“The people of Henley and surrounding areas can still donate money in most shops in the town. Please give generously to help make up any shortfall.

“A big thank-you should go the following members of the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, past president Lieutenant Colonel Peter Blaker, president John Green, chairman Anne Evans and Poppy Appeal organiser Annie Arscott.

“This has been the most difficult Remembrance Sunday service to organise as normally the procedures just duplicate from one year to the next.

“This year the town council staff have gone from plan A, to B and then C, but eventually moving back to plan A — the remembrance service held outside and live-streamed for those unable to attend.

“Thank you to the town hall staff for their patience.

“Thank you to the local associations that have sent along one of their members to lay a wreath of remembrance on the town hall steps in honour of the fallen. Thank you, Father Jeremy, for your words of comfort.

“A special thank-you to Mike and Lesley Willoughby for producing the book, Bringing Them Home Too, about the men of Henley and local villages who gave their lives in the Second World War.

“This is a follow-up to their Bringing Them Home book on the First World War. We hope to have a copy for every school in Henley.

“Today is a day of remembrance, a day to remember the fallen and also the suffering of their families.

“Finally, I hope everyone keeps safe and be well. Thank you.” The crowd remained silent as Rev Tayler delivered The Lord’s Prayer.

People were then invited to sing the National Anthem before the rector delivered the final blessing.

Wreaths were then laid on the town hall steps by representatives of different organisations who were encouraged to remain 2m apart when approaching.

The first person to lay a wreath was Lady Hall, deputy lord-lieutenant of Oxfordshire, followed by the Mayor, Oxfordshire county councillor Stefan Gawrysiak and Henley MP John Howell.

Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the Royal British Legion, the Dunkirk Veterans’ Association, the Henley air, army and sea cadets, Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the RNLI, Henley Bowls Club, the Henley Society, the town’s two Rotary clubs, the scouts, cubs, beavers, guides and brownies, Henley Women’s Institute, Henley Lions Club, St Mary’s School, Phyllis Court Club and the Quakers.

The Mayor then thanked everyone for attending and said he hoped things would get back to normal next year. People in the crowd then applauded before quickly dispersing.

The service can still be seen on the town council’s website.

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