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.

The People's Friend - - This Week -­ing-re­mem­bers.

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.

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