Yesterday, (8 August) Chair of Henley & Peppard Branch of the Royal British Legion, John Green was joined by his grandson Edward, aged 17 and over 1,000 Legion members to visit the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres before marching to the Menin Gate to recreate the 1928 Great Pilgrimage.
John carried a Standard and Edward laid a wreath, wearing his Great Grandfather’s medals. The card on the wreath reads: “From the citizens of Henley-on-Thames. Our eternal gratitude. WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.”
John’s father, William Leslie Green, served in the First World War. He was in the 46th North Midland Division and fought all along the Western Front – from Ypres to Passchendaele, Vimy and on the Aisne. As a sergeant with the 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters he won the Military Medal for action at the Hohenzollern Redoubt. He was then transferred to the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters and was soon awarded the Military Cross for action at the bridge of St. Christ on the Somme.
Unfortunately, Captain Green was badly wounded in France in March 1918. After refusing to have his leg amputated, he remained in hospital for three years due to the severity of his injuries. He never made a full recovery and sadly died as a result of war wounds many years later in September 1951 when John was just 16 years old. It was revealed at Captain Green’s funeral that he had previously been recommended for a Victoria Cross by the Divisional Commander. For many years Captain Green had worked for the welfare of local ex-servicemen. In his obituary it reads: “His work for the British Legion was a service of love.”
Following in his father’s footsteps John also went on to join the Sherwood Foresters in 1953 when he was 17 years old, where he served for five years. He held a regular commission and served in Germany and Libya but had no active service. John said, “I joined because I had to – I was earning 1.10 shillings in Sheffield as an apprentice silversmith but I heard that you got £250 at the end of service in the army. It was a good life but I was lucky – five years in the army and I didn’t have to shoot anybody or have anybody shoot at me.”
When John left the army he joined the Royal British Legion and has been a member for 50 years. He was recently awarded The Royal British Legion gold medal.
John said,“When I was younger and in the army I trooped the Colour, so it will give me a real sense of nostalgia to be a Standard Bearer again and march in Ypres. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to replicate the original pilgrimage and be with like minded supporters. It is a terrific opportunity to be on parade with my Grandson. I was surprised at how enthusiastic he was to come with me and lay the wreath for Henley. His friends too – they’re all really excited for him. That’s something that’s so important – linking the past with the youth of today. It’s all about the education of young people so that they don’t forget what happened, what the sacrifice was and make sure that these awful things don’t happen again. We’ve got the continuity of three generations attending and bearing the medals of the war. There is such a need for the work that the Legion does – not only as the main custodians of Remembrance, but also the efforts of the Poppy Appeal to raise funds for those who are serving or have served and finally there is the community aspect.”