The church is an easy tar­get

Ashbourne News Telegraph - - OPINIONS & LETTERS -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.