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Lest We Forget

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(Apologies to those who see this twice but obviously not everyone is in all Clubs and the WT is every bit as much about Service as the Band is about military service!)


Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth. It commemorates the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts. We hold Remembrance services at 11am on the second Sunday in November, nearest to Armistice Day.

Armistice Day is, of course, the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War in 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.


Today, I remember the following people.


My paternal Grandfather, Hallie James, who served with the Canadian North Nova Scotia Highlanders and died in combat in Holland, 1945.

My maternal Grandfather, Jack Burton, who served at various times with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, Derbyshire Constabulary and R.E.M.E. He then served post war with the Special Investigation Branch in Berlin, hunting war criminals and bringing them to justice. 


They shall grow not old, as we that are left 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.

- Laurence Binyon




On November 7th, 1920, in strictest secrecy, four unidentified British bodies were exhumed from temporary battlefield cemeteries at Ypres, Arras, the Asine and the Somme.

None of the soldiers who did the digging were told why.

The bodies were taken by field ambulance to GHQ at St-Pol-Sur-Ter Noise. Once there, the bodies were draped with the union flag.

Sentries were posted and Brigadier-General Wyatt and a Colonel Gell selected one body at random. The other three were reburied.

A French Honour Guard was selected and stood by the coffin overnight of the chosen soldier overnight.

On the morning of the 8th November, a specially designed coffin made of oak from the grounds of Hampton Court arrived and the Unknown Warrior was placed inside.

On top was placed a crusaders sword and a shield on which was inscribed:

"A British Warrior who fell in the GREAT WAR 1914-1918 for King and Country".

On the 9th of November, the Unknown Warrior was taken by horse-drawn carriage through Guards of Honour and the sound of tolling bells and bugle calls to the quayside.

There, he was saluted by Marechal Foche and loaded onto HMS Vernon bound for Dover. The coffin stood on the deck covered in wreaths, surrounded by the French Honour Guard.

Upon arrival at Dover, the Unknown Warrior was met with a nineteen gun salute - something that was normally only reserved for Field Marshals.

A special train had been arranged and he was then conveyed to Victoria Station, London.

He remained there overnight, and, on the morning of the 11th of November, he was finally taken to Westminster Abbey.

The idea of the unknown warrior was thought of by a Padre called David Railton who had served on the front line during the Great War. The union flag he had used as an altar cloth whilst at the front, was the one that had been draped over the coffin.

It was his intention that all of the relatives of the 517,773 combatants whose bodies had not been identified could believe that the Unknown Warrior could very well be their lost husband, father, brother or son...

THIS is the reason we wear poppies.

We do not glorify war.

We remember - with humility - the great and the ultimate sacrifices that were made, not just in this war, but in every war and conflict where our service personnel have fought - to ensure the liberty and freedoms that we now take for granted.

Every year, on the 11th of November, we remember the Unknown Warrior.




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