Centenary for Walden war memorial and British Legion
- Credit: © Celia Bartlett Photography
Residents have commemorated 100 years of the Walden war memorial and the British Legion.
On Saturday (May 15) a wreath was laid at the High Street war memorial to commemorate the founding of the organisation, which had Royal added to its title 50 years later. It took place at the same time as a wreath was laid at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.
And on Monday, a larger event was held. RBL Saffron Walden vice chairman Andrew Pain gave a short history on both centenary commemorations of the War Memorial and the Royal British Legion.
This was followed by The Last Post, two minutes silence and Reveille. The bugle was played by John Hammond.
Town mayor Richard Porch laid a wreath on behalf of the town, Revd Jeremy Trew addressed those present and Carol Pike read a poem about the war memorial.
A floral tribute of red, white and blue flowers, in the shape of 100, was laid before the event commenced.
Mayor Richard Porch said: "It was an honour to be asked to attend the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal British Legion.
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"Numbers attending were restricted because of the Covid regulations but the Legion’s organisation of the ceremony was outstanding and appreciated by both those attending and the small number of onlookers.
"0n May 7, 1921 our war memorial, erected by the towns people of Saffron Walden, was unveiled, bringing further significance to the ceremony.
"I was particularly moved, as I know were others, by the poem read out which really brought home the experience of one survivor of the war and the significance of the memorial."
* Historian Robert E Pike shares this photo of the RBL marching through Newport on Remembrance Day 1925. Can anyone identify any of these veterans? Email email@example.com
Robert E Pike's poem read by Carol Pike:
DEDICATION OF THE WAR MEMORIAL MAY 7, 1921
The May sun shone weakly over the assembled throng
As he found a secluded spot above the scene.
That morning for the first time since they came,
He had, with trembling hands, opened the box of medals.
It had been difficult to assemble the gaudy ribbons,
But he persevered, awkwardly pinning them on with safety pins.
Making his way laboriously leaning heavily on his stick,
He found his place by the Baptist Church,
Looking down the High Street over the hushed throng
Resplendent in their Sunday best, a sea of fluttering Union flags.
Remembrance and pride had been the order of the day,
Not grief, but the numbers of spotless white handkerchiefs
And the sound of smothered sobs, belied this.
It was nearly three years since the guns fell silent;
Five since a Hun bullet had shattered his ankle – and his dreams.
But although he awoke less, sweating and afraid
And the faces had begun to fade, he remembered
With frightening clarity how each of them went –
Walter, at Suvla, carelessly standing up in the trench,
Shot in the head , whilst extolling the virtues of the buxom Bertha
Whom he loved. Sid, ever eager, the first over the top at Serre,
The first to be killed and Tom, near the end, near Achiet,
Hit by the creeping barrage and never seen again, not a trace,
The dedication done, the afternoon sun slid behind the watching houses;
On the skyline witness through the ages the ancient church
Now saw the slow dispersal of the still hushed crowd
Slow as they lingered over beloved names; reluctant to leave, to finalise their loss.
He waited, till all but a few remained, making his way
Through the assembled riot of poppies, up the steps to the names.
Names of school-friends, comrades, nearly overwhelming him,
So many, so long ago, it seemed.
He turned, his first intent to go down the hill to the Comrades Club,
But even the prospect of a beer did not attract him –
He wanted, no, needed to be alone with his memories.
Once home he carefully removed the medals replacing them in their boxes.
Sitting by the fire, he wept for the first time,
Sobs that wracked his slender frame, tears for friends, for the loss of innocence,
For himself – till he could weep no more and he slept.