It was under a bright blue sky, sunshine filling the chilly air as Braintree and Bocking gathered to remember their war dead. The memorial contains the names of 202 from the Great War, 85 from the second, and we know that there are others who's names were omitted from the memorial for one reason or another. Maybe one day we will add those who have fallen in the 'End of Empire' wars and other conflicts since 1945. The British Legion members led the parade, the Air Training Corps followed, and several youth groups of various types brought a huge turnout for the commemoration. The police, the firemen, the Salvation Army joined many others left their wreaths as individuals left small wooden crosses remembering family and friends also.
I was impressed by the number of others who attended, whatever their reason. Two hundred or more people felt sufficiently interested to appear, because of personal interest or a family member on duty in the parade. Whatever it was a good turnout. As is usual in such situations a short service, led by an Anglican vicar, was held. A prayer hoping for an end to war and friendship between enemies, a reading from John's Gospel, possibly the only time many will hear this in today's world, and all accompanied by the commands to "Attention," or "Stand at ease," offered as you may expect by a chap who had no use for the microphones on offer! Was he a corporal once I wondered...?
I found the discipline of the march, the commands, the obedience, quite strange. We live in such an indisciplined society that anything that veers away from the 'me first' attitude is indeed strange. Yet discipline, for ourselves and others is so needful. Without it anarchy does indeed reign, both within and without us. Formations of troops, as here, could not take positions without proper leadership and acceptance of their orders. Sometimes this can be somewhat funny, usually it gives at least an organised parade where each knows what is expected of them. Today's society lacks both discipline and an understanding of where they are in the world.
The High Heid yins turn out as they ought, to lay a wreath, to remember, to represent the electorate. This is not wrong, indeed it is their duty. Last night during the commemoration at the Albert Hall we saw a ten year old lass burst in to tears as her father, who she thought far away on service, enter the arena. Who was not touched as she ran to him in front of the assembly? What I wondered did David Cameron, Prime Minister and the man most responsible for men's lives, think then? The camera caught him as the war widows entered, did he flinch, or was that just my interpretation? Some say such men have no thought for servicemen when an order is given to advance, others are aware of the pressure that command can leave. The responsibility to send a man to what may mean his death is an awesome one, generals usually can take it in a professional manner, most having been at the front line themselves at some time, politicians do not always appear to comprehend the enormity of it all. Of course many have been at the front. Harold MacMillan spent two nights and three days in a shell hole at the Somme with a broken pelvis, Churchill had been a soldier, of sorts, Jim Callaghan served in the Royal Navy during WW2 and Ted Heath in the army, these men understood the nature of war and strove to avoid it. What can a man like Cameron, who was young during the 'Punk' era, really know about war?
The Lady Mayor lays a wreath at the separate memorial to the Braintree supported sloop HMS Kite that was sunk by enemy action with the loss of 241 souls. Only 17 were picked up as the ship went down in a ball of flame within ninety seconds! Of these only nine survived. I understand the last remaining survivor passed away a short time ago.
Amongst those responsible for crowd control was this personable, friendly and efficient young WPC. Luckily for her she was given a position where the sun shone upon her while the cold breeze was deflected by the trees and shrubs around. The rest of us noticed the weather I must say. While such work is a requirement on such occasions it must be boring for the officers who can do little but stand around being mostly ignored by the crowds and enduring the weather often with no chance of escape. This attractive young lass was doing her job very well, as indeed what her companion further up the road.
As always, even in England, a piper is called to play 'Soldier Laddie' as they march past the dignitaries, he being led by the big base drum, which may have been playing a differing tune, I am not sure! A sight seen throughout the land today, a sight seen since the years following the Great War when memorial large and small began to appear in town and village, factory and office.
Once the streets round here were flooded with uniforms of one sort or another, we ought to be glad that those days have gone and the minority are required to serve. Still it is somewhat strange to see military uniforms pass by on parade. Hopefully the young, eager members of the cadets never see the action their forefathers endured.