Last Sunday, November 12, and, along with towns and villages all over the country, the town held its annual parade, Service of Remembrance and wreath-laying at the War Memorial.
Traffic in the High Street had to wait while the parade, organised by the Rye branch of the Royal British Legion, formed up and marched off up East Street towards the Town Hall, where the Mayor took the salute. This was followed by the formal Remembrance Service in St Mary’s before a large part of the congregation moved outside to the War Memorial for the final act – a minute silence followed by the laying of wreaths.
This year was, perhaps, particularly poignant, being the anniversary of the end of the battle of Passchendaele (officially called the third battle of Ypres) in November 1917 and the names of 42 from Rye who fell were read out. They were among some 300,000 Allied (mainly British and Canadian) casualties. The conditions were appalling; heavy rain had turned the battlefield into a quagmire with mud deep enough in some places to swallow men, horses and tanks. The action lasted 105 days, 42,000 bodies were never recovered and 90,000 of the dead could not be identified.
But Remembrance Sunday is not just about world wars. Almost every year British service men and women are asked to risk their lives – and sometimes give their lives – in pursuance of their duty. And so Rye also remembered two more of its own, recently lost; Fusilier Stephen Satchell in the First Gulf War (1991) and Corporal John Rigby in Iraq (2007). The families of both were there to lay wreathes which were among among 33 other wreathes and some 200 crosses laid by both organisations and individuals.
It is said that our armed forces are there to deal with the aftermath of political failure and whatever views may be held about military conflict, this country is fortunate to still have such men and women and few would disagree that just once a year, it is right to remember their sacrifice and in the words of poet John Maxwell Edmonds reflect for a few minutes that “For your tomorrow, we gave our today.”
Photos: John MInter and John Hart