After so much has been said, my words can add no more, but were I to try, still nothing speaks more eloquently that the sight that greeted all who gathered at All Saints’ Church yesterday. The church was so packed that many were left standing, pressed together, even with extra seating brought in. Yet it did not matter. One hundred years after the nation celebrated the victory in 1918, we gathered to remember those who fell in their nation’s service. That so many came to hear, pray, worship and give thanks, to remember what none of us saw to remember, tells us what a grip this one war has upon our national consciousness. The hymns were heartfelt. The village came together.
After the service we gathered again, on the Green about the War Memorial, and again it was a bigger gathering than in previous years, which reflects the significance of the year. The wreaths were laid, poems read, hymns sung, the Last Post and the Reveille, all in order. The uniformed organisations were there and many old soldiers and not so old, with uniforms and medals on display that remind us that the war did not end all wars and that men of courage are yet among us to guard us as we sleep.
The generations have rolled past, and the last fighting man has marched off to his final billet. We remember the sacrifice, and must continue to do so, but forget, after all this time what it was all about, and why the German Empire had to be defeated. It was for a free world that we now take for granted, where words not bayonets speak, where we send trade to other nations, not soldiers, where the norms of the whole world are those of the English-speaking peoples, not the tyrant. That we take this for granted is a tribute to the totality of the victories of 1918 and 1945.
I am grateful for all those involved yesterday in ensuring that the service and the ceremony went smoothly and with proper respect, and for all those of the village who attended to bear witness to the honour we give to those who gave their lives for the King and Empire and to ensure the freedom of the world.