Fortnight of remembrance events across the region comes to a close
As a fortnight which saw some spectacular and varied WWI centenary commemorations draws to a close few, surely, could claim not to have been touched by reminders of the scale of the losses inflicted one hundred years ago.
National news outlets focused on events attended by the Royal Family and senior politicians in Belgium, Folkestone, Glasgow, the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, but closer to home Slough Borough Council captured the imagination with its bold new war memorial.
Dropping the conventional format the new statue makes a modern statement, perhaps for a younger or more diverse audience. It was unveiled in front of thousands last Saturday and has been universally well received.
Church services have been held throughout Berkshire with many being multi-faith and some being held at war memorials. Britain has previously only conducted major commemorations to mark the end of wars. Perhaps as a result many of the events held throughout the region had a very different feel to traditional memorial services, focusing on the historical context and connecting residents with life a hundred years ago.
The Slough Remembers event was held for four hours in the town centre on Saturday. It gave residents an opportunity to turn the clock back to 1914, take part in activities and games of the time, hear stories from the Edwardian era, and find out about Slough’s role in the war.
It continued in the theme from Langley where six new streets were named after fallen servicemen from the village. Living relatives were part of the service in what has created a permanent connection with those who fell.
Schools around the region used the opportunity to research local heroes. Exhibitions of schoolchildren’s work in discovering about relatives lost in the fighting were on display in Burnham and Maidenhead. Other displays featuring stories of the fallen were held in Twyford, Cox Green, Eton Wick, and Slough – the latter organised by Slough Museum. The Museum also held an exhibition – ‘Frank went to the Front‘ – on how the war affected Slough, through the diary of one young man called up to fight.
Burnham also held a centenary concert and a further concert featuring vintage wartime music will be held on Monday, August 18.
As well as Slough, new war memorials were also unveiled in Henley, and Woodley – where local campaigners raised £26,000 – and many others were refurbished in the run-up to Monday, including four in Slough. A commemorative paving stone was laid in Reading to a Victoria Cross recipient. Here in Colnbrook, of course, a plaque was placed on the Jubilee Clock with the 41 names from the existing war memorial plus 8 new ones.
But the Light’s Out event, held all over the country on Monday night, offered possibly the most poignant moment. While for some it was held in churches, or at war memorials – including the new Slough Memorial to the Fallen – the organisers asked that people just think about the war in their own way, even from home.
That kept the event inclusive to those of different faiths, or those still troubled by the Church’s role in 1914 in telling men to enlist, or to kill all Germans “the good as well as the bad”.
In Colnbrook the street lights may not have been switched off as in Reading, but anybody walking at the time could not have failed to notice a slightly darker than normal street scene.
Some of the pubs, too, joined in the event – giving an opportunity for some reflection. Perhaps as they may also have done in those very same establishments one hundred years ago.