Remembrance Sunday Ceremony – 14th November 2021

On the afternoon of 14 November 2021, for the first time since 2019, FoSOC was able to welcome people back to its Commemoration for Remembrance Sunday. Many attended and it was good to see you all.

We were honoured by the presence of the Right Worshipful, the Mayor of Southampton, Cllr Alex Houghton with city councillors Cathie McEwing (Mayor, 2016) and Spiros Vassiliou, (Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Heritage). Distinguished guests represented the Royal British Legion and Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Wreaths were laid, two by the Mayor, for the People and City of Southampton – one each at the Cross of Sacrifice and at the FoSOC memorial to the Great War – for the Royal British Legion, the People of Belgium, CWGC, FoSOC, the Royal Welsh Regiment and the Intelligence Corps. The Presidents of the Rotary Clubs of Southampton and Southampton Clausentum, both of which are closely involved with FoSOC at the cemetery, laid wreaths on behalf of their respective members. Present with us, too, was Kathryn, who cares for the grave of Southampton’s First World War Horse, ‘Warrior’. ‘Warrior’ served with the Police and is buried close to the Municipal Golf Course at the Sports Centre. Hilda Moore, who presented him to Southampton is buried in the Old Cemetery. The Exhortation was spoken by Lt. Lindsay Bassett, RNR, Commanding Officer Southampton Sea Cadets and the Kohima Epitaph by Cllr McEwing.  The Mayor’s Cadet was in attendance on the Mayor and Southampton Sea Cadets formed the Guard of Honour.

At the Belgian Memorial wreaths were laid by the Mayor, and for the Belgian People, Royal British Legion, and FoSOC.

The Commemoration was in two parts, firstly at the CWGC’s Cross of Sacrifice, led by FoSOC’s Geoff Watts, then at the Belgian Memorial with FoSOC’s Graham Linecar. In his welcome and introduction, Geoff spoke of the privilege FoSOC members have in being able to work so closely with both the Commission and the Legion. A very important part of the former connection is in keeping open, on behalf of the Commission and the city council, access for visitors to all 127 war grave locations within the cemetery. Each year, the RBL provides us with Poppy Crosses enabling FoSOC members, just before 11 November, to go to every one of those graves and leave, there, a Poppy Tribute. In one case, in the Hebrew Cemetery, the tribute is a Star of David with its Poppy. 2021 being the centenary both of the formation of the Legion and of the very first Poppy Appeal (11 November 1921), Geoff reflected on how, and why, the Legion came to exist and its essential caring work throughout the year. He explained how the wearing of a Red Flanders Poppy for Remembrance came through a poem by Canadian Lt. Col John McCrae (‘In Flanders Fields’), the first presentation of Poppies by American Moina Michael (9 November 1918) and the visit to London in September 1921 of French lady, Anna Guerin. Geoff spoke the words of: ‘In Flanders Fields’.

The Mayor addressed the gathering, referring to that morning’s service at the Southampton Cenotaph. It had been a humbling experience, this year being so important with the two related anniversaries. He spoke of the pleasure of seeing there, and at the cemetery, so many young people.

Graham, at the Belgian Memorial, reminded us all of the sacrifice of those who had fought for their country in the Great War and had found their final rest here in Southampton, having been brought here wounded or very ill. He pointed to three of the Belgian grave sites where family tributes had been laid, two in the form of photographs of the dead soldiers, both families having come to Southampton in 2019, one in the summer and the other on Remembrance Sunday, At Remembrance, one member had laid the Belgian wreath at the memorial. ‘Their Name’ Liveth For Evermore’ with the Belgian families and with FoSOC who care for the graves. Graham paid tribute to our very good working relationship with the city council through Bereavement Services Manager, Heather White, who was with us for the Commemoration and to the very hard work of FoSOC volunteers and city council employees who dedicate their time and care to maintenance work in the Old Cemetery.

Photos: Grateful thanks to Bruce Larner