Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Garden of Remembrance, St Paul’s Cathedral

I was honoured to represent The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers at the opening of the Garden of Remembrance Service at St Paul’s on Monday, November 7.

The encampment outside St Paul’s had already had an impact on this event – both with the resignation of Rt Rev Graeme Knowles who was to lead the service and the absence of the marching band which had no place to muster. However the Royal British Legion overcame and everything ran smoothly and movingly.

The National President addressed us in the Crypt of St Paul’s and we were delighted to hear that their annual street collection at stations around the City (for which many present had volunteered) raised substantially more than last year, even in these difficult times, which is a tribute to the work of the Legion. He had visited the “encampment” outside before coming in – many tents but not as many campers. Perhaps this was all too early for them. I am happy to say that nothing intruded on the day.

It was a short but moving service and a fitting start for this week of Remembrance. I planted a cross with a poppy with the other Masters.

Although I was born after the war, World War II was very much part of my growing up. My father volunteered, as did many other members of both John’s and my families. There was no conscription in South Africa and it was touch and go at one point whether the government would support the Allies or the Axis powers. If it were not for the Allies we would certainly not be here: when we visit Wannsee during the Berlin trip you will see that the plan was to rid Europe of all Jews. It is also unlikely that the happy campers outside St Paul’s would be there either – freedom of speech was not available.

I know that these words are familiar to all of us but I think in this week it is worth repeating them.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

The service concluded with the The Kohima Epitaph

When you go home, tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow, we gave our today.

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