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Armistice 100: Westminster Abbey Service

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Following an invitation from the Heritage Lottery Fund, two members of staff from the Hampton Office went along to the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on 11 November.

 

Our Marketing & Communications Manager Cally Madden describes the experience.

 

My colleague Catherine Williams and I were proud to represent the Charity at Westminster Abbey’s Remembrance Service.

 

We felt the enormity of this privilege as the unique Service was commemorating 100 years since the Armistice was signed, bringing the First World War to a close.

Telling their Stories

 

Catherine and I were joining throngs of others, military and civilian, who had been invited to the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving. We had been invited by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) following a project to tell our Charity’s story in its own centennial year in 2016.

 

For me, Remembrance is about the importance of remembering by retelling the stories of all those lives lost and damaged. Our Charity is part of those stories, founded to offer care and hope for the injured servicemen returning from the battlefields of the First World War. Our recent #RSGHremembers social media campaign brought this to life through residents, staff and volunteers sharing the stories of their forebears who served in the First World War.

 

There are so many tales to tell, as the HLF recognised in 2016, when it provided a grant for the Charity to produce our Centenary Book, marking 100 years of The Royal Star & Garter Homes. This book provided a snapshot of the Charity’s history, year by year, and gave us the opportunity to share some of the remarkable stories and photos from our history and the lives of the veterans we have cared for through the years. Through HLF’s support we also mounted a six-month historical exhibition at the Museum of Richmond, gave a number of historical lectures to fundraising groups and attended community events around each Home raising awareness of our First World War origins.

Remembrance and Reconciliation

 

As Catherine and I walked towards Westminster Abbey at sunset, the ornate stonework of the Abbey took on a surreal glow and we picked out the rows and rows of small white crosses and red poppies below the Abbey walls, each telling the story of a life lost.

 

We took our seats close to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which was ringed with bright flowers.

 

I find this Tomb immensely moving, marking as it does the lives of all those whose bodies were never identified, providing a place of solace for families to remember their loved ones.

 

In 1920, one of our former residents, Horace Hannan, was a witness to the interment of that single body selected to represent all those lost lives and buried stories – see page 89 of our Centenary Book.

We had the perfect view of the Royal Family and dignitaries as they entered through the West Gate. Her Majesty The Queen was joined by The President of Germany in an act of reconciliation as they placed wreaths at the Tomb. They were followed by a parade of children laying white wreaths to mark lost youth.

 

Music, shared prayers and readings swelled and echoed around the ancient Abbey walls and the congregation shared a sense of respect for former and current Servicemen and women. As we listened to the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, we were reminded that remembrance and reconciliation go hand in hand.

The fact that John’s words (St John 4:7-11) will be read in German, by that country’s President – a friend to this nation – demonstrates what can be done.
Archbishop of Canterbury
Sermon at the Armistice Centenary Service

The message was this: True reconciliation is only possible if we understand and acknowledge the events of history and then find a way to move forward. It is our duty to remember those who fought for us and to keep sharing their stories, ‘Lest we forget’.

Our Marketing & Communications Manager Cally Madden (left) with Catherine Williams, Head of Fundraising (right) at the Cenotaph on Whitehall
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