Hartlepool observed Remembrance Sunday and the associated services last weekend in a thoughtful and beautiful way, even if the weather wasn’t always similarly respectful.
The ceremony on the Saturday at the military part of Stranton Cemetery is growing in significance with every passing year. More and more people attend the service.
The weather was dreadful, absolutely lashing it down with rain, to the point where some of the roads and pavements looked flooded.
I said to my wife as we travelled to Stranton Cemetery with our children that I wasn’t sure there would be many people attending because of the rain. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This years’ service was better attended than any similar event in previous years. The crowds of people – young and old, with particularly lots of children at the event – was testimony to the real wish on the part of Hartlepool to show their respect.
At the service, I read the poem In Flanders Field, written by John McCrae a hundred years ago this year in the carnage and horror of the Battle of Y. The poem is beautiful and horrific at the same time and I think is worth reproducing in full:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
I want to give particular thanks to Ian Fraser, Branch Secretary of the Hartlepool Royal Air Force Association, who led the service and who did the whole town proud, even if the rain didn’t hold off for us.
I hope next year we could move the service to the new War Memorial at North Cemetery, which was formally commemorated a couple of weeks ago.
Despite the rain at the start of the service, once again Hartlepool surpassed itself and showed respect and solemnity for the Sunday service in Victoria Square. The spontaneous round of applause for the march by servicemen and women, as well as youth groups like the Sea Cadets, shows how much the town wishes to pay its respects for the sacrifices made to allow us to live in freedom.
The weekend is full of important tradition to me. Every year, I will always attend the Navy Club in Murray Street, where at 1pm, a toast to “fallen comrades” is made. In a little but symbolically significantly way, this demonstrates the thanks we give to those men and women from Hartlepool who died whilst serving our country. For our tomorrows, they gave their todays.
We say every year “we will remember them”, and Hartlepool, once again, did so again.