The church is an easy target
MRS S Burton asks “When did the civic remembrance ceremony become a religious occasion?”
Since 1921, madam, when the Royal British Legion was formed – but I strongly doubt that remembering our military dead was ever a civic ceremony.
It’s hard to imagine that civic dignitaries would want to be associated with a public health disaster under their watch (“bring out your dead – vote for me”).
Traditionally the Army buried its dead where they fell, and the Royal Navy gave their dead to the sea, events preceded by a very short religious service.
But the sheer numbers of dead and missing in WWI changed all that. Distraught relatives naturally wanted some way to remember their deceased in this country – but they had no body to bury.
Money was raised to create memorials across the country so that bereaved families had some local point as a focus for their grief.
It may come as a surprise to Mrs Burton that many bereaved families desired that their loved ones be honoured in their local church
- to be recognised just as those who were lucky enough to take advantage of a normal burial in the churchyard.
Thus during and after WW1 remembrance Sunday services have been conducted in churches or at nearby war memorials.
It need not be in a church, (as at the Cenotaph or the Festival of Remembrance in the Albert
Hall) but St Oswald’s Church has a significant memorial in the nave to the dead of WW1 carrying the names of Ashburnians who died in the service of their country.
A second memorial for those who died in WW2 are the memorial gates to which the congregation of St Oswald’s walked after the initial service.
As they did so the Ashbourne Branch of the Royal British Legion together with the Clergy, Army Cadets, Guides, Scouts and Beavers marched to the music of the excellent Ashbourne Town band - something they have done every year for many decades.
Among those who have attended that service year after year are Sue Bull, Tom Donnolly, Ian Bates, the Millwards and Anne Smith, not to forget the indefatigable Trilby Shaw – local councillors (civic dignitaries as Mrs Burton would describe them) who not only support the Royal British Legion but who have actively given their voluntary time and effort over many years to all the organisations represented on Remembrance Sunday.
But they do so in a quiet dignified manner, humbled by the sacrifices made by those who fought all those years ago.
This is a time to remember the dead and injured, not to use the event to promote a personal vendetta against religion.
The Church is an easy target. Christianity is particularly vulnerable with its code of turning the other cheek when attacked.
I am neither cleric nor lay official of any church, so the cheek I deploy is to be found below the waist. Lt Col (Retd) Charles Swabey Osmaston