FoSOC was, sadly, aware that this year it would not be possible to hold its commemorations for Remembrance Sunday in the way people had gathered together in all previous years. We were unable to have with us our usual guests or to extend our invitations to include members and the public generally. For comparison see our News item for 12 November 2019.

When lockdown, starting on 5 November, was announced, a decision was made to lay wreaths at the cemetery on Wednesday 4 November. In recent years, we established a tradition of placing individual Poppy Crosses or, where appropriate, Star of David markers at graves and memorials, in the cemetery, connected to the two World Wars. This year, the tributes were laid at 127 graves, within the cemetery, by Val Ferguson and Lizzie O’Sullivan (see photo). FoSOC wishes to express sincere thanks to them for this dedicated work as part of our Remembrance.

On 4 November, at 2pm, keeping strictly to the Rule of Six, those who gathered at the Cross of Sacrifice, by the former Anglican Chapel, were Chairman, Billy Ferguson, Secretary, Val, Major Mike Humme – one of our members, here representing the Royal British Legion, Southampton branch – member Bruce Larner (who very kindly took all the photographs) and Graham Linecar and Geoff Watts, the two latter members having each taken Remembrance Commemorations for FoSOC in previous years.

In lovely, warm sunlight, wreaths were laid at the CWGC Cross on behalf of FoSOC (Billy and Val), the People of Belgium (Geoff) and the Royal British Legion (Mike). Close to the Cross is a plaque, provided by FoSOC in 2018, commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War. The wreath, there, was laid by Graham, on behalf of the People of Southampton. Mike recited the Exhortation and that was followed by a two-minute silence. This part of the commemoration concluded with the Kohima Epitaph, spoken by Mike.

The group then moved on to the Belgian Memorial, where three more wreaths were laid, one each by Billy and Val, Geoff, and Mike. Each of the Belgian wreaths had, across it, ribbon in the Belgian national colours of black, yellow and red. The RBL wreath at the Belgian Memorial had the dedication, ‘WU ZULLEN HEN ALTIJD GEDENKEN’ (‘We will always remember them’).

As can be seen in pictures above, two of the Belgian soldiers buried at the Old Cemetery during the First World War – Frans Louis Van Den Eynde and Maurice Salembier – have photographs by their headstones as personal memorials to them from their descendants. A lady, who loves the cemetery and is a regular visitor, very generously arranged for one photograph to be framed and FoSOC arranged the other. FoSOC would very much like to hear from families of other Belgian soldiers who were interred here, during the Great War, if they would like, please, to make contact. There is a personal memorial from the family of Fernand Levert. If any member of that family reads this, we hope they will make contact with us.

The commemorations were arranged by Billy and Val, to whom grateful thanks are expressed. Very many thanks, too, to Bruce for taking the photographs, the copyright in which is his.

Geoff Watts