“We are now all fighting an enemy that we cannot see, the Covid-19 virus. I wonder what our service heroes of the first and second world wars would think of the disruption the Covid-19 virus has caused us, compared to the sacrifice they gave, either with their lives, through being a prisoner of war, or fighting in atrocious conditions.”
These words were part of the Henley Mayor’s (Councillor Ken Arlett’s) address at the Remembrance Service yesterday which perfectly summed up the difference we are facing today with the terrible sacrifice of those who lost their lives fighting for our country to give us the freedom we have today.
Reverend Jeremy Tayler of St Mary’s Church led the service with a bidding, blessing and prayers. Chair of the Royal British Legion Henley and Peppard Branch, Anne Evans, said the Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’, before the Last Post was sounded at 11 o’clock and the congregation observed a two minute silence.
The service was live streamed via YouTube thanks to Richard Pinches from Meadows Farm Studios and those who attended the service in Market Place respected the social distance guidelines.
Also during his address Ken spoke of Henley’s last surviving World War II veteran, Dick Charlton who served in the Oxon and Bucks 4th Battalion that kept the Germans back as allied troops retreated to Dunkirk. Dick who celebrated his 100th birthday in June this year was pleased to receive over 200 cards at the Chilterns Court care home where he is now living after the Herald encouraged residents to send him a card. Ken gave a special thank you to Mike and Lesley Willoughby for their new book Bringing Them Back Too, about the men of Henley and local villages who gave their lives in the second World War. This is a follow up to their Bringing them Home book on the First World War which was published in 2014. It is hoped that a copy of the book will be given to every school in Henley.
The scaled down service which normally sees hundreds of people young and old join the parade from the town’s organisations with their flags and wreaths. Patron of the RBL Henley & Peppard Branch, John Green was the solitary standard bearer this year and there was no parade due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Before the wreath laying the National Anthem was played. Lady Cynthia Hall, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire was the first to lay a wreath on the town hall steps followed by the Mayor. Next were John Howell MP and County Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak. The following organisations then laid their wreaths – Royal British Legion, the Dunkirk Veterans’ Association, Air, Army and Sea Cadets, the fire service, the RNLI, Henley Bowls Club, The Henley Society, The Rotary Clubs, the Scouts, Cubs and Beavers, the Guides and Brownies, Henley Women’s Institute, Henley Lions, St Mary’s School, Phyllis Court Club and the Quakers.
The Mayor urged residents to get a poppy from shops and businesses that are still open and give generously as house to house collections were not allowed this year.
You can watch the live stream still here