I was lucky enough to have fantastic history teachers at my school, and they always did a very moving Remembrance Assembly. In the days when ‘multi-media’ meant wheeling out the TV trolley, it was a carefully put together tribute to the lives lost, and has stayed with me forever.
I like to do something to mark Armistice Day, and this year communities up and down the country are getting together to remember the people lost in WW1, and conflicts since.
When an appeal went out on Facebook for help making poppies for a huge installation in Bridport, I thought this would be a good way to play my small part, so last week I went to the beautiful Tithe Barn in Symondsbury to help people from the local community groups make poppies.
Staff at Symondsbury Estate wanted to do something to mark the centenary, and decided to create a temporary community built memorial on Colmers Hill, which will be visible to most of Bridport and the surrounding countryside. The installation, called the River of Poppies will cover the south side of Colmers Hill facing the A35 Dorset Road and the Jurassic Coast. The poppies will be made up of craft materials, handmade by local schools and community groups, and are being tied onto netting donated by Bridport netting companies to commemorate Bridport’s WWI history in netting.
The installation stretches over 170m in length on Colmers Hill, beginning at the top of the hill where many of its trees were planted in WWI to commemorate Bridport men who had died in the war. It will be lit red on 11th November.
I joined a table and got stuck in, making paper poppies held together with wire and a button – it’s very simple, and needs to be, as over 20,000 poppies will be needed. I was there with Lyme Bay Ladies, but there were other community groups, and schools and youth groups in the area all have their own net to fill.
It was a lovely atmosphere – busy hands and idle chatter, with a quiet industriousness and very companiable background nattering. There is something very satisfying about working in a large group, just getting on with the task in hand and getting to know the people around you a little better. It was a happy atmosphere, but I think there was also an awareness of why we were all there, and each new poppy felt a bit like a little tribute to a fallen soldier.
Communities all along the coast are marking the centenary. Lyme Regis and Weymouth have both been chosen to stage Danny Boyle’s ambitious sand tribute, Pages of the Sea, which sounds like a very poignant event. Charmouth, along with parishes all over the country, is staging ‘Battle’s Over’. At 6.55pm, the Last Post will be sounded on the foreshore, followed by the lighting of the beacon; one of 1000 Beacons of Light to symbolise the end of the darkness of war and the return to the light of peace. At 7.05pm church bells across the country will simultaneously ring out for peace.
I have tried and failed several times to write an ending to this that sums up meaning of the remembrance events neatly, but I can’t do it. It’s about remembering but looking forwards, the tragedy but also the joy of peace, the loss and waste but also the togetherness. Maybe it doesn’t matter how or where we commemorate these events, just that we remember, and come together to remember.