Words of Introduction
The theme for 2023’s Acts of Remembrance is Service.
Today, we remember the horrors of war and the heroism of individuals through story and through silence, so that these may become real in the present and influence and inspire us to work for reconciliation, peace and justice in the future.
Gathering Together in Solidarity
(words in this section come from the National Act of Remembrance Service)
Today, we meet in the presence of God.
The ancient Hebrews penned a song which generations have sung:
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.
And the Prophet Micah asked:
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
We gather together today to commit ourselves to work
in penitence and faith
for reconciliation between the nations,
that all people may, together,
live in freedom, justice and peace.
We pray for all who in bereavement, disability and pain
continue to suffer the consequences of fighting and terror.
We remember with thanksgiving and sorrow
those whose lives,
in world wars and conflicts past and present,
have been given and taken away.
Remembering with Silence
In 1928, Baden Powell summarised why it is important for Scouts to observe Remembrance Day with a shared moment of silence – perhaps his words will speak to you today:
Read by a Scout
‘When we observe the silence, what shall we ask of ourselves in those solemn moments of thought?
Could it not be to think out and resolve that in our turn we shall see with a new outlook and henceforth do, each of us, our bit to bring about peace and goodwill in world affairs?
In the Scout Movement we are trying to do our little bit in this direction, by bringing together in friendship and under common ideals the future generation of every country in the world’.
An older person says:
They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
A younger person replies: [Guide]
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning,
We will remember them.
All: We will remember them.
The Last Post
(The flags are lowered)
We keep silence for two minutes.
Ever living God,
We remember those whom you have gathered
From the storm of war
Into the peace of your presence;
May that same peace calm our fears,
Bring justice to all peoples
And establish harmony among nations,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Remembering with stories
If the weather is dry, stories and poems will be read by representatives from a range of Northstowe’s community groups, reflecting the different backgrounds and worldviews of those who have served and inspire us to stand together. This section will be shortened if the weather is very bad.
You might also like to read additional reflections on the role of Remembering from Revd Beth, following her visit to Rwanda last year here: What might it mean to “be Northstowe” – a Remembrance Day reflection – Beth's Blog (home.blog)
And additional stories of Muslims who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the Northstowe Muslim's website here. Remembrance Day | Northstowe Muslims
(read by Northstowe Secondary College)
Today, we remember the horrors of war and the heroism of individuals through silence, through story, and through poetry, so that these may become real in the present and influence and inspire us to work for reconciliation, peace and justice in the future.
Story One: Arthur Roberts' Story from 1917
Minister: Our first story comes from the First World War, and shows what happened when boyhood ideals of heroic patriotism met with the realities of war. A reality that must be remembered.
(Read by a Town Councillor)
For more than 20 years the story of Passchendaele survivor Arthur Roberts lay in the attic of a house in a quiet suburb of Glasgow. But when a young couple bought the property in 2004, the letters, diaries, memoirs, drawings, photos and memorabilia were found – and the story preserved forever.
Born in Bristol in 1897, his father a ship’s steward from Trinidad, Arthur grew up in Glasgow an intelligent and confident lad. He played the bugle and lived in a tenement at Anderson on the banks of the Clyde. Arthur was an engineering apprentice at Harland and Wolff shipbuilders when he volunteered in February 1917, and he was just in time for Passchendaele.
On his first day of battle, hours before going over the top with two Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, Arthur realised he was about to experience a rite of passage.
“I wondered if I was in the thoughts of somebody at that precise moment. Then came a wave of pride. Here was I among men sharing the risks and uncertainties of being in the very front ranks of the empire, against its enemies. My patriotism was strong in my breast then and I began to dream of what might be. Would a great chance come my way, if so, would I make the best of it? Of course I would, I am a man now, a real man.”
Arthur’s battalion suffered more than 200 casualties on 31 July. Despite his eloquence, he was at a loss.
“I saw sights that I never saw before or wish to see again.” He wrote.
Story Two: A Glimpse of serving in the Far East in 1942
Minister: Sadly, the First World War was not the last war. So our second account comes from the Second World War, and tells of some of the horrors of Service in the Far East.. but also shows where seeds of hope could be found.
(Read by someone from Pathfinder Church Northstowe)
During the war in the Far East, as well as facing the Japanese forces, troops faced the danger of tropical diseases. 80% of the British and Imperial forces evacuated from Burma in 1942 had contracted some form of disease
In 1942, for every soldier evacuated with wounds, 120 were evacuated through disease.
Malaria caused the majority of sickness and left soldiers more vulnerable to serious infection from other diseases - dysentery, diarrhoea, lung infections and skin diseases. The combination was debilitating. There were also cases of typhus transmitted by ticks and mites as well as cholera and dengue.
Many were served by medics working without proper equipment, responding to symptoms alone, who had to find ways to get the soldiers from the front to hospital in India. A soldier would be out of action for several months and weaker from the illness.
And yet in amongst these horrors, there was comradeship and opportunities to learn from those from many different backgrounds. The Fourteenth Army was one of the most diverse in history - over 40 languages were spoken, and all the world’s major religions represented. The descendants of many of the Commonwealth veterans of that army are today part of multicultural communities up and down the country, a lasting legacy to the comradeship of those who fought in the Asia-Pacific.
Reflections from the Hindu Samaj Northstowe
Minister: Each year as we gather in Northstowe, it is a privilege to stand alongside those from many different backgrounds and worldviews. Together, our custom has been to share stories that remind us of the Service of all Commonwealth and Allied Forces, without whom victory and the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today would not have been possible. But also to share something of our own cultures.
(Read by a representative of Hindu Samaj Northstowe)
A prayer for World peace.
Here is the Shanti Mantra from the Isha Upanishad:
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥
"Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate |
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||"
"That is complete; this is complete. From completeness comes completeness. When completeness is taken from completeness, what remains is completeness. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace."
The mantra reflects the concept of completeness and interconnectedness in the universe. It expresses the idea that everything is whole and perfect in itself, and by recognizing this completeness, one can attain a state of peace and harmony.
When recited, the Shanti Mantra is not only a prayer for external peace but also a reminder of the inner peace that comes from understanding the unity and completeness of existence.
In today's world of conflicts and war, we want to share this Mantra. Hope it brings the much needed peace to our world.
Story Three: Teresa Wilkinson in World War Two
Minister: As our focus turns from suffering to hope, our next Story tells of how a young woman grew in confidence as a result of her experiences in the war, and was able to stand up for equality.
(read by a local member of the Uniformed Organizations)
At 19 years old Teresa signed up to become an air raid warden. This job included making sure there was no light coming out of anyone’s windows so enemy planes couldn’t see where people lived, and fitting gas masks. Because Teresa was a woman, she was only paid two thirds the salary of a male warden. But she kept at it even with people telling her they thought women were too squeamish to be air raid wardens. Teresa’s biggest challenges came during the Blitz in 1940. People were losing their homes and everything they owned. One night after heavy bombing, the local school set alight. Teresa ran to the local fire station to get water but there wasn’t any. The local Home Guard arrived on site and together they used the water from the school’s toilets to put out the flames. In 1941 once the raids had quietened down, Teresa joined the Auxiliary Territorial Services, the women’s auxiliary (support) branch of the army. Teresa’s experiences stopped her from being shy and made her a more confident woman.
Poem: The Ordinary People
Minister: Our final “storytelling”, read to us a young person involved in the Northstowe Youth Hive, is a timeless poem, that speaks to the many conflicts of the last century, and those ongoing today. As we listen, let us hold in our hearts both the horror of such times, but also the seeds of hope that we have shared together today. It is called “The Ordinary People”
(Read by a local Young Person)
We remember today all the ordinary people
ripped from their towns and villages,
torn from their families
to serve their country in war.
We remember today the people
left behind to keep things going
in factories, on farms, on the streets blitzed by war.
We remember today the people
who lost their lives in war
and those left behind who never saw their loved ones again,
who grew up without a parent, a sibling, a partner or a friend,
who never discovered love again
and who grew old alone.
We remember today all the ordinary people
on either side of the conflict whose lives were changed forever
all those who paid the price of freedom.
And, in remembering the ordinary people,
we remember that the cost of war will always be too high
and paid for by ordinary people.
Liz Crumlish of Spill the beans
Remembering through the Laying of Wreaths
Let us remember before God, and commend to his sure keeping:
Those who have died for their country in war;
Those whom we knew, whose memory we treasure;
and all who have lived and
died in the service of all people.
Representative and other members of the public come forward to lay wreaths or offer other symbols of remembrance and hope, such as single flowers or crosses or other symbols
Wreaths will be laid against the tree between the benches in the recommended order (as listed in the RBL Ceremonial Handbook):
- Mayor or equivalent representative from the Town Council
- Representative from Faith groups – this year: Pathfinder Church, Hindu Samaj
- Representatives of youth organisations - Scouting, Guiding, Primary School, Secondary School
- Members of the public.
The Kohima Epitaph
Read by a young person from Northstowe Secondary College
When you go home
tell them of us and say,
for your tomorrow
we gave our today.
Seeking the strength to work for reconciliation, peace and justice
Today, we have remembered the horrors of war and the heroism of individuals through silence and through story, in the hope that these may become real in the present and influence and inspire us to work for reconciliation, peace and justice in the future.
For those of us with a faith, we draw strength from the conviction that we do not have to do this alone, but do this in the strength of the God who loves all people.
And so now we will pray, and then pledge ourselves to work together, with those of all religious and non religious beliefs, for peace and justice.
God of the impossible,
We pray for justice, peace and reconciliation;
When the challenges seem too many,
Remind us of your resurrection power;
When the task seems overwhelming,
Remind us of the miracle of love;
And when apathy threatens us,
Remind us of your vision of a world made whole.
Help us to hope that the impossible can happen
And live as if it might do so today. Amen.
~ from Creation Sings Your Praise, edited by Annabel Shilson-Thomas, Canterbury Press, 2010. Posted on the Monthly Prayers page of the Christian Aid website. http://www.christianaid.org.uk/
All are invited to join together in the Lord’s Prayer:
All: Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power,
and the glory
for ever and ever.
Responding in Hope and Commitment
Let us commit ourselves to responsible living and faithful service.
Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
All: Lead us from death to life,
From falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope,
From fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
From war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts,
Our world, our universe. Amen
(The Prayer for Peace)
God grant to the living grace, to the departed rest,
to the Church, the King, the Commonwealth and all people,
unity, peace and concord,
and to us and all God’s servants, life everlasting.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all
and remain with you always.
The service today was led by Revd Dr Beth Cope, Pioneer Minister for Northstowe, and Church of England Priest at Pathfinder Church Northstowe. This service was put together drawing on the following resources
- Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.
- Winter, edited by Ruth Burgess, published by Wild Goose Publications © 2016
- Royal British Legion guidance for an Act of Remembrance https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/about-remembrance/act-of-remembrance
- The introduction was adapted from, and some of the stories taken from Jean M. Mayland. Beyond our Tears: Resources for times of remembrance. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, developed in 2004 in conjunction with the Royal British Legion
- The story of the Guide was taken from the Ways To Mark Remembrance website at girlguiding.org.uk
- Other stories were taken from the Royal British Legion Wedbsite