It was an occasion I will never forget
A great many of us enjoy the television coverage of the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall every November.
But what must it be like to be there in person? On this significant anniversary, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, Jim Fletcher and his wife Pauline from Coseley were privileged to attend this most important commemoration:
“It was back in July I successfully applied for tickets, one Legion member and one guest only. Two other members of Lower Gornal Legion were successful too, so that made a party of six, myself and Pauline, Graham and Hazel Jones and Brian and Marilyn Woodall.
“We left Birmingham New Street with great anticipation and arrived at Euston in London mid morning. The number 10 bus to South Kensington took us via plenty of London sights, although we had been notified that parts of the route would be altered due to heightened security. But this turned out beneficial to us as we had plenty of time on our hands and saw even more of the city. Regents Park, Mayfair, Harrods, The Ritz, and as we passed Hyde Park on the way to Knightsbridge a troupe of Household Cavalry passed by, all dressed in crimson cloaks, wearing gleaming silver helmets and sitting astride their beautiful black mounts. It was a spectacular image.
“On our arrival at the Royal Albert Hall we were met by heavily armed police and everyone attending was subject to a security search including all baggage, pockets emptied, photo identification and tickets verified, and then we had to pass through a full body scanner.
“Entering the hall it was a sight to behold and almost took your breath away and we were quickly ushered to our seats at least half an hour before the service was due to start. There are two shows on the day and we were in the first sitting so to speak, and although the Queen wasn’t in attendance during our stay, there were plenty of dukes and duchesses to fill the Royal Box.
“The Festival began with the entry of the Standards and a fanfare by state trumpeters. BBC presenter Huw Edwards was at the helm to guide us through the programme of events. All of the singing performers were excellent and they put plenty of emotion into their performances. Sir Tom Jones was superb and I must mention Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones, Sheridan Smith, Sir Bryn Terfel, and the Kingdom Choir. During the performance by teenage cellist Sheku Kannehmason who played ‘Hallelujah’, the whole audience held up portraits of those who had served during the Great War. This was a very moving and emotional few minutes.
“But then the poppies fell from the heavens. You could hear a pin drop, the only sound the swish, swish of the petals as they filled the air. Thank you Royal British Legion and all the service men and women, military and civilian for a day and an occasion I will never forget.”
Jim Fletcher and his wife Pauline outside the Royal Albert Hall, November 10 2018
Three of the thousands of poppy petals that fell during the Festival of Remembrance