On Sunday I am sure I was not alone in feeling great pride in our town and communities.
The 50th Anniversary of the end of the Great War was a low key affair. Controversy about the War raged and the sacrifice of those who fought and died risked being eclipsed by debates over the Generals, the apparent futility of so much of the conflict and the causes.
In recent years, interest has been resurgent. As I have seen in many of our local schools, the issues of the Great War are being fully addressed and analysed but this is happening alongside a full recognition of what the War meant for so many – those who fought and those who suffered the fear of knowing their loved ones were serving. For so many the consequences of the War lasted for a lifetime beyond the Armistice.
On Sunday the town paused to reflect in huge numbers in Carfax at 11am. St Marys was full for the Remembrance Service, its bells ringing out both muffled and, later, in celebration. At the initiative of the Friends of Horsham Park a tree was planted in memoriam in the Park at 9.30am. In the afternoon the Cathedral gathered a congregation from across the Diocese. I also attended evening services in Southwater and Billingshurst – two of the great many held throughout the area.
Events marked the sacrifice of a generation but also the steadfastness of those who returned determined to build a better country: the War marked the start of huge advances in democracy with the enfranchisement of women and all men achieving the vote, improvements in society and in living standards.
There was a belief 50 years ago that the Armistice commemorations would in time fade. To the contrary, in recent years they have grown in size and scope and those gallant Carfax attendees who fought for our freedom in the last War in theatres as divergent as Normandy, the Italian landings and the Arctic Convoys will know, looking at the record numbers including so many young people, that the sacrifice of their and their parents’ generation will be remembered with pride and thanks for many, many years to come.
Photo caption: Tony Snelling who served with the Royal Navy in World War II was among veterans at Horsham’s Carfax Memorial on Sunday