THOUSANDS of people lined the streets of Redditch today, Sunday, to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice to end the First World War.
It was a Remembrance Sunday like no other, one that grew from a service and laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph in the Peace Garden in Plymouth Road at 10am to the mass event on Church Green outside St Stephen’s Church by the war memorial an hour later.
Redditch pays its respects to the fallen and those living with the consequences of war like no other town, a fact acknowledged by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Andrew Grant.
“I was given the choice of where I could go and I chose Redditch and I keep coming back because I really think so much of the people of this town and I know the crowds will be huge,” he said.
The services at both the Cenotaph and the war memorial were conducted by town centre chaplain and vicar of St Stephen’s, the Rev’d Paul Lawlor assisted by the Rev’d Robin Baker from the Oasis Christian Centre and the Rev’d Garth Nathaniel of Ipsley Church.
At the Cenotaph the Rev’d Lawlor reminded everyone that some 20 million people had died as a result of the First World War.
“Do we remember in any detail what they were fighting for? Maybe the historians among you will, but what of the rest of us?” he asked.
It was the start of a theme that steadily developed throughout the morning, that of making a point to remember the names of those who died, not only this Remembrance Sunday but always.
At St Stephen’s, using one of the ‘there but not there silhouettes’, he spoke of Richard Scott, a man born and bred in Redditch but who died fighting on November 15, 1917, as an example of a name to hold and treasure.
He also urged people to be ‘stirred’, stirred up to look for hope to find peace.
“Let us live lives that are impacted by remembrance. Never say there’s just me, what can I do? If we all do what we are able to do we can make this a world where men and women do not have to go to war and die,” he said.
“Wars continue today, there are men and women here today engaged in those actions but we hope and pray for a future of peace, justice and mercy.
“Today we remember with sadness, but we hope that we are people who can be stirred and transformed.”
Wreaths were laid by civic dignitaries, the military and veterans, individuals and community groups from across Redditch’s broad cultural make-up in a powerful show of unity.
Guests included Chelsea pensioner Simon De Buisseret who attended last year’s event and who’s son lives in Redditch.
He brought with him the Croix de Guerre awarded by the French to his father Edmund for gallantry in the First World War.
He also read out two moving and powerful poems he had written on the impact of the First World War.
Redditch MP Rachel Maclean said: “It’s incredible to see this sort of turnout; it’s a really poignant and moving day and it’s an honour and a privilege to be here today.”
Borough Mayor Councillor Juliet Brunner said: “It’s a huge privilege to be Mayor of this Borough in the 100th anniversary year and to lay a wreath for the fallen of Redditch.”
The act of remembrance included all soldiers who died in the conflict and once again Redditch showed its solidarity across all communities with wreaths from all communities, including the Polish, Hindu and Muslim, to name just three.
“It is wonderful to be here today for the centenary of the ending of the First World War,” said Warrant Officer Saheel Khan.
“It’s great to see such a variety of people coming here from different backgrounds.
“Quite often in this day and age people fail to realise that the war affected those from different backgrounds and all nations too and it’s remembering them, regardless of their country or origin – they fought together and the mud and blood on the battlefield remained the same for them too.”
Local businessman Nitin Sodha added: “We must never forget those who gave ‘their today for our tomorrow’ and that really is a test of how communities are working together and we need to continue to do that and work for peace and justice for all.”
Councillor Bill Hartnett said: “A very poignant service heard by a magnificent turnout by the people of Redditch.
“Particularly pleasing was the representation from all the different communities all paying their respects to those who gave their lives, lest we forget, for ours today.”
Elsewhere in the region Remembrance Services were held in Studley, Alcester, Alvechurch and Astwood Bank as the nation came together to remember the fallen.