1918: 100 years on

I greatly enjoy meeting school groups in Westminster and was pleased to see Christ Hospital students on Monday. We paused at the Cenotaph – where the school band will be leading the Remembrance Day march past. Many of those whose sacrifice we are commemorating were the same age as these students.

My great-grandfather, an Army Padre, survived the Great War. He died however, relatively young, soon after, serving his Parish. His son, a young pupil at Christ Hospital, remembered the almost brutal way he was informed by the Headmaster but years later recalled, with sympathy, how a kindly man must have been hardened by so many such conversations with other boys about fathers, brothers and how many of his students would have been lost in the years before.

This Sunday, on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice, we will remember the dead of 1914-1918. I hope to join commemorations in Horsham, Barns Green, Southwater, Billingshurst and Chichester Cathedral among the many that will be held locally. Hundreds of names are inscribed on our memorials but I cannot but think in particular, in Horsham, of the Bostocks of The Causeway, Champs of Kempshott Road and Jupps of Park Street; families who each lost 3 sons in the conflict. On 11th November 1918 at 9.15am as news reached Horsham of the Armistice the bells of St Marys rang muffled peels, they did again at 11am and rang again, joyfully, that evening as the Vicar led the town in a torchlit parade. The hesitancy perhaps reflecting disbelief that it was finally over and coming to terms with the loss sustained amid the happiness of peace and victory.

Mirroring events 100 years ago, the Commons suspended its sitting this week to attend Parliament’s church to remember all those who did not return, including 22 MPs. In a moving service Parliamentarians were reminded that we should remember not just in this, 100th, year but every year and that commemoration is not enough. We honour their sacrifice by learning the lessons of past conflicts and ensuring they are not repeated. This will be on all our minds when the President of Germany lays a wreath alongside Her Majesty at the Cenotaph on Sunday.

Photo caption: With Christ’s Hospital students on Monday at the Cenotaph which was being spruced up for Remembrance Sunday, in which the school’s band will be taking a prominent role in the March Past.