Respects paid to war dead

Father Peter Fitch and town mayor Tony Gardiner at the forefront as people gather for the service SUS-140508-100501001
Father Peter Fitch and town mayor Tony Gardiner at the forefront as people gather for the service SUS-140508-100501001

A MOVING service saw people gather in Bognor Regis to pay their respects to those who gave their lives in the first world war.

It was expected a handful of people would assemble for the service, held by the town’s war memorial, outside the Clarence Road town hall, on Monday – instead more than 80 people turned out at 10pm.

The crowd was welcomed by town mayor Tony Gardiner, who thanked them for coming together to honour the war dead.

“We are here to remember those who gave their lives in world war one,” he said. “The signing of the declaration was at 10pm and then at 11pm here (midnight) in Germany we were at war.

“War is not a place for joy. When I watch the film on the television it sometimes looks like they are going off to play a cricket match. It was not a cricket match they were going to. A lot of them died.”

Before a short silence Father Peter Fitch, the assistant priest at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, said: “On this hour at this time let us pause and remember those who fell for our country.”

Prayers followed the silence, with Father Fitch telling the crowd he felt it especially important that a prayer for peace was said.

“It seems to me we should be the authors of peace,” he said.

A prayer from St Francis of Assisi and a blessing from Palestine followed.

Those who wanted to say a few words or read poems were also invited to do so.

Alison McCaffery, district commissioner for Bognor Regis, read the first verse of the Scouts hymn to remember the part the Scouting association played in both wars.

Bognor Regis town councillor Pat Dillion then read the poem In Flanders Fields written by John McCrae, in May, 1915.

An unpublished poem penned by a 19-year-old from Belgium trying to remember what home was like was also read. The poem finished poignantly with a series of unanswered questions.

Taking his turn to speak, town councillor David Edwards said: “I just have something very simple to say – thank you.”

The service, which lasted around 25 minutes, was closed by Father Fitch.

He said: “I want to leave you with maybe a bit of work for you to do.

“At some point over the next week as you pass this war memorial just take a look at some the names.

“They were somebody’s son, somebody’s father.

“They were from our community here in Bognor.

“War memorials are replicated up and down the country remembering those sons and fathers who went to war and never came back.

“It is estimated one billion British men, a generation wiped out in four years.

“Just pause and look and say thank you, because we are able to do this because of those brave men.”

The crowd then joined together to sing the national anthem God Save the Queen.

Phillip Timms, of Clarence Road, said: “We saw people gathering outside the memorial and wondered what was going on so we decided to have a look.

“It has been moving and I am glad we came.”

“As a community Bognor is very good at joining together when they need too,” added the 70-year-old.

His wife Maggie agreed: “It is important to remember and mark these occasions. It is the least we can do to show our respect for all those who went to fight in the war.

“You only have to look at the names on the memorial to see the affect it had on the town and on the community. It is important younger generations realise the importance as well.”

After the service, more than 20 people followed the mayor and Father Fitch down to the beach with torches.

With a chill in the air the crowd gathered near the town’s seafront beacon.

The torches were turned off at 11am for two minutes to remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Speaking at the end Cllr Gardiner said: “Thank you all for coming and showing your respect.”

n Earlier in the night in Yapton a one-minute silence was observed by residents and members of the parish council at a special planning committee which had been called.

Committee chairman and vice-chairman of the parish council Andy Faulkner said: “I would ask that everyone joins us in a one-minute silence to show our respect for those who gave their lives in the first world war.”

Cllr Faulkner told the meeting the installation of a plaque commemorating those from the village who had lost their lives during the war was being arranged. The plaque will include the names of the 33 who lost their lives in the first world war and the 17 who died in the second world war.