Remembrance Sunday Ceremony

On Remembrance Sunday, 12 November, we welcomed distinguished guests, led by the Lord Mayor of Southampton, Cllr, Valerie Laurent, to our annual afternoon commemoration. We gathered, beforehand, in the former non- Conformist chapel – now home to FoSOC thanks to the city council – where Val had assembled a most informative display from our Archives. We then proceeded to the Cross of Sacrifice for the opening part of the Commemoration.

There, FoSOC’s Geoff Watts, welcomed everyone, the weather conditions not being very favourable. He gave the following apology from our President, Professor James Stevens Curl and his wife Dorota. ‘We send our apologies, and warmest good wishes: we are very proud and pleased to be associated with such a fine group of people.’ Geoff stressed the very great interest they have always taken in FoSOC, its progress and work at the cemetery.

In addressing the gathering, Geoff said that 2023 marked the 20th birthday of the formation of FoSOC. He recalled how we have progressed from the initial work of the Founders, through all the very dedicated research of volunteers, to assemble the vast archive we now hold of people buried or commemorated in the Old Cemetery.

Geoff said that November 2023 is the 110th year since 1913, and that that was to be the last November of Peace for 5 years until the Armistice of 11 November 1918. 1912 and 1913 had seen wars in the Balkans, Bulgaria being defeated there in 1913. He looked at the story of Eric Charlton Newman, born in 1890, and commemorated on the family grave in the cemetery. In 1915, following Bulgaria’s entry into the Great War, Eric had been sent to fight in the Balkans and been wounded. By the summer of 1917, he was at 3rd Ypres, where he was killed in action and where he has a grave. One of the lives we remember as lost to war.

The Exhortation was spoken by Mr Archie Parsons of Southampton RBL, the Last Post sounded, on the bugle, by Able Cadet Eleanor Bassett, this being followed by The Silence and Eleanor then playing The Rouse. Wreaths were laid by the Lord Mayor, Peter Shawyer (FOSOC) for Belgium, Mr Parsons (RBL), Mr Alistair Goodall (CWGC), Warrant Office First Class Stuart Evans (25 MI Coy), Heather White (Southampton Bereavement Services), FoSOC’s Chairman, Mr William Ferguson (FOSOC) and Rotarian John MacGibbon for Southampton Solent Rotary Club.

The Kohima Epitaph was spoken by Southampton City Councillor, Alex Houghton. This was followed by the Lord Mayor’s address in which she referred back to that morning’s ceremony at Southampton Cenotaph and stressed the overriding importance of ‘Remembering The Fallen’.

The Commemoration then moved to the Belgian Memorial where proceedings were conducted by Graham Linecar of FoSOC, who recalled the origins of the memorial and burial area. He then talked about Louis van den Eynde, a Belgian soldier, who had been buried there, contrasting his life in 1913 with his suffering wounds in October 1914 that led to Louis being brought to England where, sadly, the wounds proved fatal.

Wreaths were laid by the Lord Mayor, Mr Peter Shawyer, Mr Archie Parsons and Mr Ferguson. Graham then concluded the Commemoration with thanks to all concerned particularly to FoSOC Secretary, Val Ferguson. who co-ordinated the preparations for the afternoon. Special thanks were given to members of the Southampton Sea Cadet Unit and cadets from 72 MI Coy. The Sea Cadets, under the command of Lindsay Bassett, who had formed the Guard of Honour for the Lord Mayor and whose conduct at both places of Remembrance was impeccable.

Report: Geoff Watts, FoSOC, November 2023. Photo Credits: Bruce Larner of FoSOC.

I too would just like to add my ‘THANKS’ to Geoff Watts and Graham Linecar for hosting the ceremony, Lizzie O’Sullivan and Pete Shawyer for all there extra help with placing the crosses on the graves and setting chairs etc., and Bruce Larner for the photos. Val Ferguson FoSOC Secretary