Whaley Bridge paid its Remembrance Day tributes to the war dead with the main service in the Uniting Church and the laying of wreaths at the Memorial Cross in the Jodrell car park. Sunshine slanted down at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the armistice in 1918 – making it feel more like a summer day than November.
Beryl Axcell, from the Parish of Whaley Bridge, conducted the service in a packed church, with Whaley Bridge Band accompanying the hymns. Flags of the Royal British Legion were laid on the altar, and wreaths including those from the Town Council and men’s and women’s branches of the Legion were placed with many more from other local organisations at the foot of the altar.
The names of all servicemen and women from Whaley Bridge, who died in the two world wars and other conflicts, were read out to the silent congregation. Just before 11am, a single trumpet sounded the Last Post before Whaley Bridge joined the nation in the Two Minutes Silence.
Beryl Axcell recalled that the first Two Minute Silence started in 1919, a year after World War One ended. She asked youngsters in the congregation “Why are we here today?” A little voice said: “To remember the war”. Another said: “To remember the dead”. But why is the day so important? “To learn the lessons and make sure war never happens again” was the reply from two other young voices.
Beryl gave the young congregation something to think about. Did they know jelly baby sweets were introduced after World War One, but were called ‘Peace Babies’? The different colours represented the nations that had fought for peace and freedom.
The Cenotaph in Memorial Park, which is being restored, was unable to be the focal point of memories, although a small group of people gathered for a non-religious remembrance.
There were short ceremonies and wreath layings at Furness Vale and Bridgemont war memorials, and a remembrance service in Kettleshulme church.
Wearing the medals with pride
A number of people among the congregation were wearing medals. George Tomlinson from Furness Vale, now 88, served with the Royal Navy, at one time in the perilous role of protecting convoys and their vital cargoes from Nazi U boats. On his chest were medals indicating service in France, Burma, the Pacific, in addition to the Defence and Victory medals.
Ruth Gay, from Whaley Bridge, wore her late father’s medals. He had served through the war, joining up not long after getting married. He served part of the time with the Eighth Army as a ‘desert rat’ in North Africa.
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