They will begin to assemble soon after 10.00 am and stray children will be running about the Common waiting to see the Ex-service men, complete with their medals and the British Legion Standard, who are gathering at the Post Office. The local band in their smart uniforms with the scarlet stripes and their shining instruments. The Girl Guides and the Scouts join in with their colours. And now the procession moves off and marches in time to the strains of war time tunes. One among them carries a wreath which he will presently lay at the foot of the War Memorial.
The Church is already full as the men file into the pews specially reserved for them. The Guides have chairs in the Chancel and the Band are at the back of the Church. The special speaker arrives – in uniform – and the Vicar has to make a way for him up the crowded aisle to a seat below the pulpit.
The light streams through the South window on to the Altar with its covering of the Union Jack and a shaft of sunlight rests on a wreath of laurels, tied with crimson ribbon, which lies across the Sanctuary steps.
There is a stir of expectancy among the crowded congregation. One lives again the moments immediately following the cessation of war and the laying down of arms after four long nerve wrought years. It is, for many of us, as if the years between had fallen away and we are standing dazed and thankful – till a sudden realization steals over us of what life ahead is to mean for us, whose loved ones will not return from the hushed battlefield and for those whose bodies and minds have been broken and shattered.
There in front of us sit men who went out and have come back again – one among them totally blind, one or two without an arm or a leg – who shall say what their thoughts are as the remembrance of war years surge over them once more.
“My friends and fellow comrades, we are gathered together on the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice” the solemn service has begun and we are wrapped in contemplation of the Almighty Father of us all, who is greater even than war and the horrors of war – in whose keeping are all those, who, living or dead “gathered rank on rank to war and heard God’s message from afar”.
Then comes the moment when we leave the Church and stand in front of the War Memorial to hear the names of the fallen, and the voice of one of their brethren asserting that “We will not break faith with those who died” A laurel wreath enriched with a mass of blood red poppies is laid on the memorial and the Last Post and the Reveille ring out in the chill November air over bowed heads.
And now we break forth into one last hymn of hope – our minds are lifted to the thought that “far more glorious day when all the Saints triumphant shall stand in bright array” and as the last Amen dies away we are brought back to hear the Vicar with uplifted hand calling down the Blessing of God Almighty upon us and upon all whom we love.