How Wivenhoe on 11th November 2018 commemorated the ending of WW1 100 years ago
Exactly 100 years after the guns fell silent.
Page created by Peter Hill
The people of Wivenhoe turned out in their hundreds to commemorate the ending of WW1 exactly 100 years previously. Newspapers and television had played their part in promoting this centenary in the weeks running up to Sunday 11th November 2018.
As in many other towns and villages, lots of people in Wivenhoe got involved in marking this important date in a special way. Many ladies in the Wivenhoe branch of the British Legion, in the WI, the Wivenhoe Methodist Church and at St Mary’s Church began knitting and crocheting poppies in order to decorate St Mary’s to mark this Centenary date. Wivenhoe Quay Quilters joined in too. Bonnie Hill co-ordinated all this work, also using what had been contributed last year to create a fantastic display this year. Pat Smith and Jeannie Coverley from the Legion used 600 poppies they had ordered through the Legion and spent the whole of Friday before the Remembrance weekend to create magnificent displays of red poppies on each of the window sills.
On Saturday 10th November, a team of ladies from the WI created a stunning display of red around the altar whilst the ladies from Quay Quilters concentrated on enhancing the font with a bright display of poppies and decorated all of the pew ends before helping Bonnie and a team of ladies to pin hundreds of poppies to netting on either side of the chancel arch.
Whilst these ladies were working on their displays, the Wivenhoe History Group took full advantage of the PC projector and large AV screen to project a rolling display showing pictures of the 50 men who died during WW1 in the order of the date they died. The second part of this presentation showed the streets where their families were living and, one by one, a poppy flew onto this street map to show where families received that dreaded telegram. Visitors to the Church during that Saturday were very moved by what they saw as the streets of Wivenhoe gradually became covered in poppies. This effect was suitably enhanced by the several thousand poppies being added to the interior of the Church.
Outside the Church, projected onto the wall of the Tower stood Tommy, standing as it were in a ring of sandbags which were generously provided by the Town Council. Dave Sleightholm and I took it in turns to go to the church every evening for the week preceding Remembrance to switch him on on and off using a special switch in the church. From an idea I had discussed with Dave some months earlier, Dave created the means necessary to achieve this image. It was very effective with some people coming especially to the churchyard to see it.
Remembrance Day itself was very special. A lot of people assembled at the Congregational Church to march down to St Mary’s Church for the 2.30pm Remembrance Service behind the Boys Brigade band. Large crowds awaited the arrival of the procession and the Church was already packed with standing room only at the back of the Church. Lawrence Knox of the RBL Wivenhoe branch had orchestrated the Service which was conducted by Rev Erwin Lammens, Rector of St Mary’s. The Service included prayers given by Cllr Bob Needham, Town Mayor of Wivenhoe, and Jerry Davis, Chairman of the Wivenhoe branch of the Royal British Legion. Dominic Chan played a hauntingly beautiful Welsh lullaby on his violin whilst, at the same time, Tom Williams recited the names of all the conflicts in which British forces have been engaged since 1918. Very sadly, there have been so many. Helen Connelly then sang that instantly familiar song, ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone’. She sang it beautifully and unaccompanied too. It was very moving.
When the beautiful service concluded at 3.30pm, we came out of St Mary’s to find the churchyard already full of people. Usually there are up to 150 young people in the 12 Scout and Guide units who attend the Young People’s Act of Remembrance in the Wm Loveless Hall, something which has been taking place since around 1995. This year, there must have been at least this number of young people present. A week before this Remembrance weekend, Guide leader Louise Crawford had been given 12 cut-outs of WW1 soldiers made of a clear plastic. These she had decorated with pictures of soldiers who had been killed which she took from the Wivenhoe History web site. These stood in front of all the young people, facing the War Memorial as a stark reminder of what the day was about, not that anyone needed reminding.
With just one of the bells sounding, RBL Chairman Jerry Davis began reading the names of all those who died in WW1, followed by those in WW2 and finally that of James Houston, a casualty of the conflict in Northern Ireland. A bugler played the Last Post, the Exhortation was read and everyone fell silent for two long minutes.
Fortunately the weather was kind to everyone that day. With the few words of the Kohima said and Reveille sounded, the wreath laying began. First was Mrs Bonnie Hill, a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex, who laid a wreath on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, followed by our MP, Sir Bernard Jenkin, and then by many others including Mrs Charmian Wheatley who laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal British Legion. When all of the many wreaths had been laid, covering the Memorial on its four sides, the Scouts and Guides placed crosses on the War Memorial on which they had inscribed the names of all the people who had been killed. Earlier that afternoon, 1st Wivenhoe Scouts had attended the war graves in Wivenhoe’s old and new cemeteries and placed a cross on each with due ceremony.
After everyone had sung the National Anthem and Rev Erwin Lammens had said a final blessing, many people accepted the invitation of the RBL Wivenhoe branch and adjourned to the Hall on the Quay for some welcome refreshments.
Someone later, after the ceremony had finished, placed small soldier figures cut out of hardboard around the base of the Memorial, each painted black and having the name of each person named on the War Memorial. It was another lovely tribute ‘to the fallen’.
The day was not yet over though. People gathered on the King George V Playing Field at 7pm where a beacon was lit and the bells of the Church began to ring out in celebration of the Armistice 100 years previously. Other bells and communities too joined in, right across the country. Finally, a great many people returned to St Mary’s for an evening of Music for Remembrance with choral and organ music by Mozart, Faure, Rutter, Handel and Parry with wonderful singing including sopranos Hilary Brunning and Lucy Crocker, alto – Christine Langabeer and bass, Barnaby Crocker. The organist for the evening was John Rippin and the conductor was Director of Music at St Mary’s, Graham Wadley. It was a lovely way to conclude Wivenhoe’s Remembrance activities.
A lot of people worked hard to make this 100th anniversary of the day the guns fell silent a very special occasion including Jerry Davis, Lawrence Knox, Rev Erwin Lammens, and Cllr Robert Needham, amongst many more. Thanks are also due to Wivenhoe Town Council which shared a lot of the costs of the day together with the Wivenhoe branch of the Royal British Legion. All of the money collected by the Poppy Appeal Organiser, Martyn Carrick, and his ‘army’ of volunteer collectors will go to the Royal British Legion. The money raised through the Poppy Appeal is used to provide support for members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, veterans and their families. Martyn hopes that when all of the money has come in, Wivenhoe should have contributed around £9,000 to this central fund.
Lest we forget.
President, Wivenhoe branch, Royal British Legion