On the afternoon of Saturday 10th November, around 150 people attended a ceremony to commemorate the end of the First World War and to remember those from the village who sacrificed their lives for our freedom today. The church, splendidly decorated with poppies provided by the British Legion, was literally overflowing.
Nine silhouettes of soldiers, which had been awarded to Charlton by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust, participated in the event, representing each individual young lad of the village who did not return from the war, “there but not there”.
The commemoration was preceded by a talk on the stories of each of these young men who fell, their homes and families, lives before the war, the battles they fought in and how they died. This helped bring them to life and enabled everyone present to know them as individual people, not just names on a list.
Family members of several of the fallen were in attendance. Edward Witchard of the Royal Navy, who died in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, was represented by eleven of his family, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to be there. Some of them had never actually met before but the desire to pay respects to their relative had brought them together once again, as a family, in the village in which he grew up. The families of Albert Beale who died at Gallipoli and brothers Reginald and Arthur Hawker who both died were also well represented.
The commemoration ceremony commenced with a procession, to the music of Elgar’s Nimrod, led by the standards of the British Legion and the local Scouts and Cubs, and including members of the uniformed services and military veterans. After a moving reading of Macrae’s "In Flanders Fields" by a representative of Help For Heroes, musicians and singers from Charlton sang two pieces, Willie McBride, a lament for a fallen soldier and "The lads in Their Hundreds", composed by George Butterworth who himself was killed on the Somme.
After an appropriate introduction, the name, regiment and age of each of the fallen was read out by a Charlton villager, seated by the appropriate silhouette. All were in their twenties or younger. Wreaths were then laid on the war memorial by a representative of the army and the local community police force. The principal wreath was then laid by the niece of Albert Beale.
After a dedication read by a veteran, the Last Post was played by a bugler on the balcony at the back of the church, followed by a minute’s silence and then Reveille. The standards were appropriately dipped and raised. The ceremony concluded with a blessing by the parish priest and the National Anthem was sung, prior to the standards processing out of the church.
All then moved to the recently refurbished Old Schoolroom where the Charlton ladies had provided a splendid array of refreshments including “Trench Cake” and a display of war memorabilia had been set up.
This was a very moving event, some tears were shed and many emotions were felt. Charlton feels proud that it has done justice to the memory of the lads of the village who never came home 100 years ago and that what they gave up, so today we can live in freedom, has been properly recognised. We hope the lads may have been looking down on us and were pleased.
This year's show was held on Saturday 1st September in the newly refurbished Old Schoolroom and was well attended by villagers and visitors alike.
Below are some photos of the exhibits and visitors: