“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 weather may have started out disappointing – but yet again Stone showed its true colours – Poppy Red – ignoring the drizzle with a stunning turnout in their thousands for Remembrance Sunday on November 11th and by the time all arrived, the sky was blue and the Plane Tree was at its glorious best.
And how fitting it was that exactly 100 years to the day, Remembrance Sunday was held on November 11th. Well done Stone yet again! Thanks as ever to all the volunteers who organise these poignant gatherings.
Thanks also to Adam Jones for access to the excellent viewing point from Granville’s… and a big thank you to Vantage Point Creative for these excellent pictures from the day.
Songs of war and peace
A group of singers from Stone Choral Society made the trip to visit their sister choir Terpsichore in Oostrozebeke, Belgium, for the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. It was a most memorable weekend in many ways.
Although links with Oostrozebeke have been forged over the last 36 years, this occasion seemed very special as the area had been directly involved in the Western Front of WWI and to be part of their commemorative concert was very moving. The programme featured songs of war and peace from that era and from more recent composers.
As part of the trip the choir visited Tyne Cot cemetery which is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of allied forces from the war. The visitors were able to lay a poppy wreath, kindly donated by armed forces charity SSAFA, in memory of those from the Stone district who never returned. Of the almost 12,000 soldiers buried, there were many unknown soldiers, some of whom would probably have come from the Staffordshire area.
The shadow of war
This poignant image was sent in by Gazette reader Rachel Selby who was walking up Stone High Street on November 16 when she noticed that the November sun was casting a shadow of the figure of the memorial on to the poppy-covered trunk of the plane tree in Granville Square.
She thought it quite wonderful so quickly photographed it. We agree – it’s a stunning image.
Chebsey tells the story of its own fallen heroes
A World War One Centenary Remembrance programme was organised at Chebsey Church by Chebsey Parish Historical Society, Chebsey Parish Council, Friends of Norton Bridge and Chebsey Parochial Church Council and was led with much energy, good humour and persuasiveness by Margaret Ainsworth Hickman and her team.
The main theme for the event was World War One but the displays are about the Parish of Chebsey in both World Wars.
The displays were designed to present in pictures, words and artefacts what is known about this parish during the war years and to collect the stories behind them.
Each of the men of Chebsey Parish who died in WWI was represented in perspex ‘there but not there’ silhouettes and a folder on each individual was presented to tell as much of their story as is known. Paintings by local artists were also displayed in the exhibition.
The local community and surrounding area donated items, as well as knitting and crocheting more than 1,200 poppies to create a ‘weeping window’.
Schools and other local organisations created displays giving their interpretation of WWI themes. A comprehensive programme of events accompanied the exhibition, including talks, displays and films and the exhibition was open daily with someone in attendance to answer questions. Interest was such that the event was extended for a further week to allow more visitors.
The project is supported by Staffordshire County Council Local Community Fund and the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund and will continue after these displays are dismantled with Chebsey Parish Historical Society undertaking original research to produce a legacy booklet charting the local history.
Doves of peace in school tribute
Pupils at Christ Church Academy participated in Remembrance Week during November – five days of specially designed activities to deepen their understanding of the importance of the 2018 centenary of the end of World War One.
The children had opportunities to reflect on the importance of remembrance in their own lives and to learn more about WWI, took part in military drill in PE, created artwork to be displayed at Christ Church Stone, decorated memorial stones and contributed more than 1,000 paper doves to be used in Lichfield Cathedral as part of an art installation on the theme of peace.
The week culminated in the whole school community showing their respect by taking part in a two-minute silence together with a performance of the Last Post, a poignant and fitting end to a special week.
Remembrance experience for nursery
The children from Mumbles Day Nursery visited a Remembrance scene on Wednesday, November 7, which was created by one of the nursery’s neighbours in the village of Sandon. The children have been learning all about the 100th year of Remembrance through a range of activities and a visit to the local cenotaph.
Pirehill children honour the fallen
House Captains at Pirehill First School were kept busy selling poppies in school in the run-up to Remembrance Day and the school library also took on a Remembrance Day theme. The train carriage pictured is a replica of the one the Versailles Treaty was signed in. The children also took part in Stone’s Remembrance Day Service on Sunday, November 11.
A moving act of remembrance
Like communities throughout Britain, Hilderstone showed its collective thanks to those who fell during the First World War in a moving Remembrance Service at Christ Church.
Festooned with poppies, the church was a beautiful tribute to all those who marched to war, and especially those who failed to return. The boys from Hilderstone, whose names are engraved on the war memorial, looked on from old photographs displayed in a thoughtful exhibition which had been placed at the entrance to the church, while their names were proudly displayed on poppies around the village and the church entrance.
Two silent Tommies stood sentinel in the churchyard, with hand-made poppies at their feet, a gift from the children of the Crafty Church group, alongside crosses bearing the names of loved ones lost through war. It set the scene for what was to be a very poignant act of remembrance.
This Remembrance Service saw the rededication of the war memorial which was recently re-sited in the south aisle, where it now stands with pride.
There were many moving parts to this service, but perhaps worthy of special mention was the haunting sound of The Last Post. Positioned on the balcony, 10 year old Zach Ireland’s faultless rendition was truly memorable; the sound of the solo trumpeter reverberated throughout the church to mark the commencement of the two minute silence. It was a strikingly poignant moment.
The releasing of a cascade of poppies, strewn from the balcony by members of the Crafty Church group, was a fitting and moving end to this special service, a silent salute from a generation who will ensure that we will keep the memory of the fallen alive.
Cenotaph honour for Stone veteran
Stone veteran Don Knight was honoured to march in Whitehall with the Suez Veterans Association on Remembrance Sunday on November 11. This was probably the last time he will take part in the event as the association is disbanding due to the age of its members.
On the previous Saturday evening Don had queued for two hours in torrential rain to see the 10,000 lights lit in the moat of the Tower of London.
On Remembrance Sunday the sun came out for the parade itself. Don described it as an amazing experience to again remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice, and to meet old comrades and friends, one of whom travels each year from Canada to march with the Suez Veterans Association.
The group met on Horse Guards Parade around 9am and formed up to march to their appointed position at 10.15am for the two minutes’ silence, the laying of wreaths and the Remembrance Service. They then marched past the Cenotaph, round the block, and back to Horse Guards Parade. They passed the Saluting Dais en route, where the Princess Royal took the salute.
At 4pm the public were allowed near the Cenotaph to see the wreaths. Don said:
“There was a unity and friendliness amongst the veterans, and acts of kindness from the public. A truly memorial experience.”
Peace be with you
Christine Conlin attended the Beacon of Light Ceremony at St Michael’s Church
Bells rang out and a beacon blazed from the tower of St Michael and St Wulfad’s Church as Stone, along with a thousand communities up and down the country, held its ‘Battle’s Over’ ceremony on the evening of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
At 18.55 the crowd gathered outside fell silent as members of Stone Royal British Legion and the HMS St Vincent Association played the Last Post and Reveille on the church steps. HMS St Vincent was named in honour of Stone’s naval hero Admiral Sir John Jervis, Earl St Vincent, who is buried in the mausoleum behind the church. The bugle player was Cathy O’Keefe from the St Vincent Association who, with husband Michael, had travelled from Brighton for the ceremony.
At 19.00 Stone Town Mayor Kristan Green gave the signal for the beacon on the church tower to flare into life. I was up there to see it and can report that, when the full team of bellringers were ringing out their thunderous peal for peace, you could feel the tower rock!
The church was decorated with more than 1,000 ceramic and knitted poppies, whose production was co-ordinated by Lay Reader and former Town Councillor Lin Davies. Many were made by adults with learning disabilities at the Oak Tree Farm Rural Project near Sandon.
“It has been a stunning day,“ said St Michael’s Rector Ian Cardinal. “We had huge numbers for our morning service, filling the body of the church and both balconies. Near the altar, we placed ten candles to symbolise the ten major battles of the First World War. Lighting them was a poignant moment, but this momentous day has ended with a celebration.”
Pianist plays Armistice Concert
World-renowned organist and pianist Duncan Honeybourne presented a new programme of work, Shadows of the Great War, at a concert in the Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall, on the afternoon of Saturday, November 10.
The concert was arranged by the Trinity Men’s Fellowship on the eve of the Armistice and was a free concert. It was well attended and enjoyed by the audience. After the concert the support of the local printer Creative Copy n Colour was recognised by the presentation of a special plaque which was received by father and daughter Ann Grice and Ian Douglas.
They support many organisations in the Eccleshall community and this was recognised at the presentation.
‘Roses’ remembered at Swynnerton Armistice Service
This year’s annual Armistice Day service, in honour of the ladies who worked at Swynnerton Training Camp when it was a munitions factory during World War Two, held a special poignancy as family, friends, employees and local residents gathered to remember all those lost in conflict during and since the Great War which ended 100 years ago.
Hosted by Landmarc Support Services and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and supported by ESS, the event is now in its 18th year and saw eight surviving ladies, fondly named the ’Swynnerton Roses’, return to the camp to join more than 200 guests to remember the sacrifice made by so many.
This year also enabled visitors to visit the small museum on the camp, created by Landmarc employees Dave Hargreaves, Basil Fielding and Anthony Small, which charts the fascinating history of life on the camp during the war and beyond. Barbara Botfield began working at the camp in 1940 when she was just 16 and has been to every single ‘Roses’ reunion.
Barbara said: “I was employed filling detonators. We didn’t realise how dangerous the work was at the time. You just got on with it really.”
For Joyce Clarke, who is now 93, this was only her second time at the event. She remembers the hard work and the early starts in the morning.
“I worked here from when I was 18 to 20 and used to have to make the journey from Hanley by bus to start the early shift. My mum used to knock on the ceiling under my bedroom to wake me up in the mornings at 4am so that I would get to work on time!”
Another Rose, Alice Heath, who will be 99 in February and lives in Stone, remembers the time one of the detonators exploded while the ‘girls’ were working. Thankfully no one was hurt but as Alice said:
“We were all left a bit shook up after that and reminded that this was not nice work at all, but essential for the war effort.”
Joan Key’s role was organising the wages for the Roses, as at 15 she was too young to work directly with the ammunitions. Joan said:
“There was always something going on at the camp. I remember dancing with the American GIs, right here in the canteen where we are having lunch. They were exciting, but dangerous times.”
Major (Ret’d) Jim Salisbury, DIO’s Training Safety Officer at the camp, who organised the event with Facilities Manager Eleanor Shea and Team Administrator Sam Williams from Landmarc, said: “It’s always a pleasure to invite the Roses back to camp each year. Back in the 1940s, their contribution to the war effort went largely unnoticed – carried out in secret with little recognition. So it’s wonderful to be able to say a public thank-you and recognise the part they played in keeping our country safe.
“We were delighted this year to be joined by Primrose Patman who will be 100 next April. It was Primrose’s first time at the event and we were able to present her with the special commemorative brooch given in recognition of ammunition workers and their efforts during the war.
“We also remember with pride those Roses that are no longer with us, including Ethel Parker, who sadly passed away at the age of 100 this year and Martha May Whitehouse who died last year, but was represented by her sons Stephen and Grenville Wood, marking the first time the family had attended.
“This year, we also had some fine military music for our service and during lunch, kindly provided by the cadet band of the Staffordshire Air Training Corps, with the North West Sea Cadets joining us on parade and helping us and ESS to serve lunch to all our guests.
“The support of the staff from DIO, Landmarc and ESS cannot be understated for all the hard work, effort and attention to detail that goes into this important event prior to, during and after. This is always done from the heart as it is felt that what the ladies from the ‘Roses’ started in the war years, we carry on in support of defence.”
Poppy project success
Lin Davies would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported the Poppy Project she organised with Oak Tree Farm and the local community to mark the centenary of the end of World War One.
“It was a lot of work but we did achieve our aim of creating one thousand hand-made ceramic poppies and the display in St Michael & St Wulfad’s Church for Remembrance Sunday was fantastic.”
Lin added that “the knitted, crochet and felt poppies that were included in the display were also magnificent. Help was given by so many individuals and organisations, including the Stone and Eccleshall Gazette, and made it a true community project.”
These ceramic poppies can still be purchased either from Lin on 01889 505094 or from the shop at Oak Tree Farm.