This was an international event throughout the Commonwealth. All over, people would gather to light a beacon to commemorate 100 years since the end of the first world war – all at exactly 7pm on the 11th November, followed by an International Cry for Peace by Town Criers. The top of Wimborne cemetery seemed the ideal location as it was a high point that could be seen from miles around and has many WW1 war graves.
The Cemetery Clerk & Registrar Karen St Clair did an amazing job putting the project together, including getting the fire brigade to test light and be there on the night to do the actual lighting. Radio Wimborne were also there to manage the sound and record the event. Other volunteers came out to marshal and ensure everyone was safe.
From the earlier service which ended at the RBL, we set off back to the Square for 5:30pm in order to get into another parade ready for setting off at 6pm. This time we were led by the Dorset Youth Marching band (including drums lit up with LED lights)! Our MP Michael Tomlinson and PCC Martyn Underhill, together with the Chairman of Colehill Parish Council were also in the parade, as were more scouts and guides and other Councillors.
Again we paraded through West Borough – streets lined with people – even people in their houses looking out of their windows or stood in doorways. We turned left at Blind Lane and the band played us all the way up to the top of the cemetery. We walked past the WW1 graves each one individually lit with a spotlight (don’t forget, this is November, so it’s pitch black up there at this time). The effect was very dramatic.
Once at the top, a stage was set up for us, behind fencing. Cllr Terry Wheeler who is the Chairman of the Joint Cemetery Management Committee, introduced the event and a number of speakers who had readings and stories over the course of about half an hour.
The fire brigade lit the Beacon at exactly 7pm, the last post was played followed by 1 minutes silence and then the Town Crier did a special Cry for Peace. I was the last speaker with a WW1 dedication which had been written for me especially for the occasion. The words were pretty special, a number of people commented on them (I didn’t claim credit) – see below.
Again we had been lucky with the weather after earlier downpours (the fire brigade did a reverse job of keeping the brazier dry in the lead up)! It was a bit chilly up there but I don’t think anyone minded. The crowd clapped after each reading.
At the end, the Dorset Youth Marching band played everyone back to town in a slightly more relaxed fashion. Simon Wheeler the band leader commented that this was a first for them – but what a great first it was!
A true community event, made up of participants from the community and totally supported by it too! Such a memorable weekend. Lest we forget.
This time of reflection has enabled us to focus our thoughts on those who gave their lives in the First World War. Without their sacrifice we would not have the liberties or advantages that we have enjoyed since. Hearing these few stories brings home the truth that everyone affected by conflict is a real person. All the fallen have families, friends and communities who are the worse for their absence.
World War I changed societies, yet it was change – nothing stopped altogether. Life went on, and, continues to change and move on. For us today, perhaps the best way we can honour their memory is to follow their example of doing the right thing, not just the things we want to do; to respect all those in our diverse communities, not just those who reflect our own views and to educate our children to be compassionate, committed to the greater good, yet assertive enough to challenge those who would seek to replace good with evil. It is not enough that they should be good people because as Winston Churchill said, “All that is necessary for evil to flourish is that good men do nothing”. Take these stories and others from our own families and communities and use them to demonstrate and educate our community to expand our understanding of and relationships with each other.