On any scale, 1918 was an extraordinary year. The Representation of the People Act enabled certain women over the age of 30 and men over 21 to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time; Spanish flu, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history resulted in some 100 million deaths from 500 million people infected; but perhaps of most significance, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the First World War (the Great War) fell silent, ending a four-year global conflict. In all, of the millions of dead, more than 700,000 soldiers who fought as part of the British Services did not return to their homeland.
For almost 100 years, the Royal British Legion, under the patronage of the sovereign, has championed remembrance of all those who have lost their lives or been injured on active service. But, the Legion does much more: fundraising through the Poppy Appeal; providing welfare; comradeship, and lobbying on behalf of veterans.
In this centenary year (1918–2018) we have contributed to national commemorations sending the Rye Standard, with Paul Whiteman and David Pawsey, to Ypres, in August, to muster with the other 1,100 standards of the Royal British Legion, drawn from across the country. This event replicated the Great Pilgrimage of Great War veterans to Ypres in 1928.
Although the World Wars were arguably the bloodiest in human history, for present-day veterans many “small wars” in the past 50 years have resulted in death, destruction, injury and the displacement of populations. Mental health is proving to be an enormous challenge for many.
Armistice Day is a day to remember all those stories of relatives and friends, who have fallen or who suffer. We should consider that their sacrifice enables the freedoms – speech, choice, democracy; relative peace – that we enjoy.
On this Sunday November 11, those who gather at Rye War Memorial will remember all those from Rye, killed in conflict, but in particular the 145 men who did not return in 1918. 100 years after the event, both they and their families would expect no less of us.
We will remember them.
Note from the editor: Rye’s civic Remembrance Day service will take place at St Mary’s Church from 10:55am on Sunday to allow for the two minutes silence at 11am
As the church is usually packed it would be wise to arrive early. Following the service, wreaths and poppy crosses will be laid at the war memorial behind the church by representatives of Rye’s many organisations.
The Mayor will take the salute outside the Town Hall as Rye’s uniformed services process to the church, shortly followed by councillors in their robes.
In the evening, at 7:05pm in St Mary’s churchyard, the town crier, Paul Goring, will proclaim a ‘cry for peace’. This is part of an organised event that will see the cry repeated by town criers simultaneously throughout the country.
Image Credits: Anthony Kimber.