Susie Kearley discovers an exciting project to commemorate bellringers who died in World War I
Susie Kearley discovers an exciting project to commemorate bellringers who died in World War I.
IF you think you’ve seen more folk than usual visiting the bell tower of your local church this year, you’re quite right. It’s all because of Ringing Remembers, a Government campaign to recruit 1,400 bell-ringers to honour the memory of the British bell-ringers who died during the Great War.
On November 11, 2018, bells will ring out across the country to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.
Exactly 100 years earlier, those bells, which had been restricted for the duration of the war, rang out to mark the end of hostilities.
Jamie Singleton is the Ringing Remembers Campaign Co-ordinator.
“Recruitment is going incredibly well; we hit one thousand sign-ups recently, and every morning I usually see around ten more. People love bell-ringing and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.
“The more recruits we have, the more we get, because the word gets out to more people. We’ve seen exponential growth in recent weeks.
“Communities have got behind it and people from different backgrounds are learning to ring, coming together to commemorate the loss of life in the war and its lasting and traumatic impact, and to celebrate the announcement of peace one hundred years ago.”
Jamie is taking part in the bell-ringing at
St Vedast, a vibrant church at Foster Lane, London.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he says. “After six weeks, I managed to ring in rounds with other ringers, but my main ambition is to be in full control of the bell. I’ve really enjoyed getting a feel for it and I’m improving with practice; it’s a wonderful feeling!
“I’m now looking forward to this becoming second nature so I can focus on the ringing patterns and methods.”
Two of Jamie’s greatgrandfathers fought in World War I, and he’s researched their stories. One was shot in the leg and met his future wife while recuperating in hospital.
“My other greatgrandfather lied about his age,” Jamie confesses. “He enlisted when he was only fifteen, at the outbreak of the war.
“Apparently his mum wrote to someone in the Army to ask if he could be withdrawn from the front line because of his age.
“Whilst he was not sent home, this wish was fulfilled at first, as far as we know, and he survived.”
In Norwich, Anne Tansley Thomas took up the bell-ringing challenge along with four other learners at St Giles and St George Colegate.
“I rang briefly as a teenager in a rural village church, mainly as an excuse to hang out with the boys! When I moved to Norwich, I was drawn back to bell-ringing by the enthusiasm of local ringers.
“Ringing Remembers gave me the push I needed; the call was out for new bell-ringers to honour those lost in World War I and I felt compelled to do my bit.”
It’s been a great social experience for Anne and her fellow ringers. They’re practising regularly in a lively environment, and learn something new in each session. The challenges of trial and error are more than offset by the fun aspects!
They’ve even been researching the history of local bell-ringers and remembering those who died in the war.
“Bell-ringing is such a great thing to do,” Jamie says. “There is the social side, teamwork, learning a new skill with such a long heritage, the musicality and the stress-busting effect of switching off when you’re in the tower and zoning in to the ringing!
“The fact is, whilst it is a challenge, bell-ringing is accessible for most people, young and old alike. Strength is not an issue. Bell-ringers are very friendly and there are over five and a half thousand towers you can visit.”
The Government has made bell-ringing a central feature of its commemorations this year, because bells were rung across the country to celebrate peace in 1918 at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. ■
Anne Tansley Thomas felt compelled to do her bit.