Representatives from Eastleigh’s twin towns joined a record crowd of townsfolk to commemorate Remembrance Sunday at the War Memorial on Leigh road recreation ground.
Veterans, servicemen, cadets, members of the emergency services and local scout and guides joined Eastleigh’s Mayor Rupert Kyrle and the Deputy Lieutenant for Hampshire Andrew Kent Esq for the service led by Salvation Army Envoy Margaret Moore.
Around 1,000 people who had gathered to honour Eastleigh’s fallen stood in silence at the stroke of 11 as bugler Trevor Dacombe of Romsey Old Cadets mounted the steps of the bandstand to sound the last post.
In a short but poignant speech, our Mayor honoured Eastleigh’s war victims saying:
“As a nation we wear our poppies with pride, lay wreaths and place crosses in their memory, their sacrifices must not be forgotten nor should they have been made in vain we must all continue to strive for peace and freedom throughout the World.
We stand here today together united in a common bond of peace and in friendship between our three towns to honour their memory.
We will remember them.”
Representing the French town of Villenueve-Saint-Georges, Communist Councillor Marc Thiberville stressed to the congregation the importance of the act of remembrance:
“We all know how important it is not to forget these millions of people; men, women, children soldiers or civilian victims of war in the past century.
We owe them our current freedom and peace and our tribute is a duty, but the memory is the guardian of our mind. The memory is a way to protect ourselves against new wars.
In a world still convulsed by many conflicts in an era of crisis we must remember how terrible war is in order not to give way to violence.
This is not an era without war or a time between two wars, this is a goal with which by understanding, partnership and friendship, we will preserve this treasure this fragile achievement for ourselves and for the next generation.
Isaac Newton said that we build too many walls and not enough bridges. Many years later, despite the folly of war, order has been built and with this bridges.
The towns of Eastleigh, Kornwestheim and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges decided several decades ago to build a bridge between them – a bridge made of respect and friendship.
Each time we meet we add a little bit to the bridge and our partnership is getting stronger it might not be enough to solve the problems of the world but we are convinced it is a positive step forward to preserve peace.”
Representing Kornwestheim, Germany, Burgermeister Dietmar Allgaier said:
“Man is only truly dead when nobody thinks of him anymore” said the German writer Bertolt Brecht, lest we forget the dead.
In order to remember them, to give them a name and a face and a life story, we commemorate Remembrance Day with you our friends.
Many families who participate here at this commemoration today certainly know the feeling of losing a Father, a Mother a Son or a Daughter.
We remember the fallen soldiers, the refugees and victims of former wars, the victims of terrorist attacks.
We think of the people that we miss., Their names are amongst us today.
Peace, freedom and justice are responsibilities we owe to the deceased.
We need to invest all our determination to show that the events of the past will not happen again.
We who bear political responsibility today, must continue to act and work for a peaceful and better future for us and all future generations.”
The speakers then laid wreaths on behalf of their communities.
Wreaths were also laid by the Town’s former Lib Dem MP Lord Chidgey and the current MP Chris Huhne, The Princess of Wales Regiment, The Royal British Legion, The Borneo and Malaya Veterans, The Eastleigh Ghurkha and Nepali Association, Polish Ex-Combatants Association, 11 Platoon Hampshire Army Cadets, 1216 (Eastleigh) Squadron Air Training Corps, Hampshire Fire and Rescue, Hampshire Constabulary, St John’s Ambulance and Scout and Guide Organisations. Paul Capper undertakers laid a wreath on behalf of themselves and one to the horses who died in the world wars with the inscription ‘They had no choice’.
Biker groups ‘Royal British Legion riders’ and the Virago Star Owners Club also laid tributes.
After the ceremony the Parade lined up for a March past the Old Town Hall – now The Point- accompanied by the XIVth Eastleigh Scout and Guide band which had supplied music during the ceremony from the Bandstand.
The parade was preceded by a motorcycle convoy ride past by members of the British Legion Riders and VSOC.
The President of the Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford & District Branch of the Royal British Legion Norman Brown MBE gave the salute. As in previous years Paul Capper paraded a pair of magnificent black horses in memory of the equine victims of conflict.
The Mayor and Mayoress and dignitaries were joined outside The Point by the Police Commander for Eastleigh & Romsey district, Ch.Insp Andy Houghton and Lib Dem ELAC Councillors Chris Thomas, Simon Bancroft and Keith Trenchard as well as Parish Councillor Peter Luffman (Labour) and Martin Lyon (UKIP). The Mayors father, Martin Kryle, also a former Mayor of the town was also present.
Many of the people participating in the ceremony still feel strong connections to forebears who took part in the war.
Police Sgt Chris Spellerberg- who marched in the parade alongside Eastleigh Safer Neighbourhoods Team colleague PCSO Mike Alder, carried in his Tunic a pocket book which had belonged to his Great-Great Uncle who fell at Ypres in 1917.
Councillor Chris Thomas recounted to me how his Father had narrowly missed death at Dunkirk and then capture at Singapore.
Not everyone was so fortunate of course.
Afterwards, while I was photographing the wreaths at the war memorial, one of the council grounds men tidying the area pointed out a wreath to me which had been laid in memory of his Great-Uncle Thomas Godwin, who drowned after HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed at Scapa Flow.
“He was a Telegraphist shut in a room below decks…he never stood a chance”