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WW1 Centenary Commemoration

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Service of Commemoration:
Centenary of Start of First World War
Monday 4th August 2014
At War Memorial (10.00 pm)

Church lights turned off (Alan Mander)
Introduction (Revd Trish Mander)

We have gathered around this memorial tonight to remember all those from this community who were caught up in the courageous but tragic events of the First World War. We remember those who were killed in action, or by disease, the bereaved, the lost, the families which were shattered, the wounded, maimed and injured, those who held in silence unspeakable memories of warfare.

As we remember those who fought and those who remained anxiously at home in this community, let us pray that God will heal all memories, speak a word of peace, and bring us his healing.

Lord, have mercy.
All Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
All Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
All Lord, have mercy.

May the God of all healing and forgiveness draw us to himself and cleanse us from our sins, that we may behold the glory of his Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Light candle by war memorial (Graham Tyack)

Reading of the names (Nick Burch)

Verse 4 of "For the Fallen" (Graham Tyack)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.

All We will remember them.

Last Post (Bob Ellisdon)

All Silently walk into St Mary's Church


In St Mary's Church Use chancel and front centre pews — poppy placed on each seat.

Opening (Revd Trish Mander)

Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All who has made heaven and earth.

Commitment and Courage (Graham Tyack)

Some 65 million men were mobilized across Europe during WW1. Nearly a third of them — 21 million — were wounded. Another 8.5 million were killed. And 7.7 million were taken as prisoners of war.

Some of the common threads through these many lives are commitment, courage, suffering and a yearning for peace — not just amongst the soldiers, sailors and airmen but amongst those left at home.

The different threads are often intermingled but commitment and courage shine out from the following extracts from the story of Edgar Ellis and a letter from Harry Foster to his mother.

Reading

The story of Edgar Ellis, a young man who lied about his age

Aged just 15 Edgar Ellis ran away to sea. His son, Major John Ellis (77) recalls, 'He went down to the naval recruiting office and saw a sign saying that you had to be over 18. 'So he told the Petty Officer that he was 17. The man said, "Come back when you're 18." 'So he went to the back of the queue, came back and the same Petty Officer said, "How old are you now son?" He said he was 18 and he was in.'

Edgar spent his war as a signaller patrolling the North Sea on the battleship HMS Ajax. Here he helped to intercept and detain thousands of merchant ships thought to be carrying cargo bound for enemy shores. He was still only 15-years-old when he took part in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War 1.

'A piece of shrapnel from a German shell lodged in his forehead,' John says. 'He really thought he was dead because his scalp came down over his eyes and there was blood everywhere. The officer of signals came over and pushed the skin back and wrapped the bandana that he wore round his head and said, "You'll be alright. Stay on your post." And he did, but he had terrible headaches for the rest of his life!'

Edgar spent the rest of the war at Scapa Flow and, when he was off duty, helped to scrape ice from the ship to prevent it from capsizing. He grew up incredibly fast on that ship. I think that the Bible that his grandmother had given him got him through the war. He would have relied on it, I'm sure of that.'

Edgar's New Testament falls open at Psalm 23: the Lord is my shepherd. 'His faith meant a tremendous amount to him,' says John. 'He was strong-willed and dutiful, but it was his faith that pulled him through. He had great faith that all would be well.'

Leading Signalman Ellis survived the war and went on to fight in WW2, recording his Christmases spent away from home in the same tiny New Testament. Both his son and grandson subsequently used the same New Testament when they were in the Forces. 'When I read it today I feel my father's presence,' says John. 'Reading it reinforced my faith and I'm sure it did his too.'

Prayer

O Lord, grant that we too may show commitment and courage in your service and in the pursuit of peace and the common good.

Pause for Silent Prayer and Contemplation

Harry Foster's Letter, describing the trauma of the battle field

In August 1916, 20-year-old Harry Foster wrote home to his mother, accounting his experience of the Somme.

He recounts hours of relentless shelling from the German side followed by the realisation that 'it was a case of every man for himself, or surrender and be captured'. So he and his colleagues decided to try to get back to their trenches.

'We had 400 yards to go and immediately a terrific machine gun fire was opened on us. I cannot write about the scene that followed. It was simply awful,' he wrote. I could see it was absolutely useless in going on and I immediately threw myself into a shell hole a few yards from the German trench, amongst the remains of their wire entanglements. One or two others followed my example and immediately dropped in, but the Germans had seen them and they commenced throwing bombs at us from their trench. There was nothing for it but to shift and most of us made another dash. I looked ahead and saw another shell hole about 10 yards away and stooping low, I dashed for it. I was in a terrible plight, as weak as a rat and not knowing what to do. I decided to wait until it was dark, when I should have a better chance of crawling back to our trenches. At last I knew it was getting dark as the rays of a star shell managed to penetrate the dark corner where I was. Making as little movement as possible, I slipped off my equipment and everything else I was carrying and commenced to crawl through the shattered wire. Several times I got hung up on it and it seemed ages before I could free myself. At last I got clear of the wire which stretched about 30 yards or more and began to breathe freely. I got back to our lines and at once went to the dressing station. Through God's help alone I survived that day. All through, you can see how wonderfully our prayers were answered and I am, as I know you are, full of gratitude to Him.'

Of his platoon of 36 men Harry was one of two men left alive and without serious wounds from this battle.

Prayer

O Lord, grant the we may hold the course in the face of adversity and put our trust in Your unfailing love.

Pause for Silent Prayer and Contemplation

Reading

Of course commitment and courage were not the sole preserve of combatants, as exemplified by the story of Willie Woodbine, who was one of the best-loved chaplains of World War 1. His real name was Father Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. In 1914 he was vicar of St Paul's Church in Worcester.

His ability to communicate with people was to stand him in good stead during the War. He joined up on 21 December 1915. Four days later he was conducting a Christmas Day service in a village square in France. In Rouen he spent time seeing troops off to the front, giving them New Testaments from one bag and Woodbine cigarettes from another. That's how he got his nickname of Woodbine Willie.

In 1916 he was at the Somme among the troops on a day when 21,000 were killed and 35,000 injured. In his diary, he wrote about accompanying the men digging trenches into No Man's Land. He wrote,
'Fear came. There was a pain underneath my belt. Of course, I had to go. It was the parish.

He sought out the wounded and dying in No Man's Land, often dragging them back to the trenches for treatment and prayer. He spent time at makeshift hospitals and often went for 24 hours without sleep.
Later that year, he became a wandering preacher, and by the end of April 1917 had visited and preached at all the British bases in France.

Prayer

O Lord, grant that we may have the courage and commitment to do our duty under all circumstances always putting the welfare of others before our own needs and desires.

Pause for Silent Prayer and Contemplation

Suffering and Peace (Julian Eades)

Stats on Suffering:

  • 6 million British men fought
  • 65,000 of them suffered from shell shock
  • 170,000 of them became prisoners of war
  • 1.7 million of them were wounded
  • And 772,000 of them died

Today war still goes on in many parts of the world. So, in Gaza,

More than 1,600 Palestinians have been killed and 8,000 wounded since the start of the conflict on 8 July

Poem.
Behind that long and lonely trenched line
To which men come and go, where brave men die,
There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,
A broken plot, a soldier's cemetery.
There lie the flower of youth, the men who scorn'd
To live (so died) when languished Liberty:
Across their graves flowerless and unadorned
Still scream the shells of each artillery.
When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot
Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,
And flowers will shine in this now barren plot
And fame upon it through the years descend:
But many a heart upon each simple cross
Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss. (John William Streets)
A prayer for those afflicted by war
Lord Jesus, you knew the loneliness of fear: hold in your hand those who fear for their lives, those who live in places of violence.
Help us to bring comfort to the oppressed, and compassion to those who suffer, so they may hear the song of love which triumphs over evil.
Amen.
Peace
"What an extraordinary effect Christmas has on the world. Peace and goodwill amongst men during peace time one can quite understand but peace and goodwill amongst men who have been murdering one another for the past five months is incredible and if I had not seen for myself the effects of Christmas on these two lines of trenches I should never have believed them. All day yesterday the German snipers were busy and unfortunately to some effect...(censored)..progressing well. That is by the way. The point is that when darkness fell all firing ceased. The Germans sang and shouted and cheered, and we sang and cheered. We called Merry Christmas across to one another. The German lines were lit up with huge flares and we could see each other plainly. A few hours before we were jolly careful to keep our heads below the parapet and now we were sitting on it, throwing cigarettes and tobacco to our enemies who wandered out into the middle of the lines. In some places we are only about 100 yards from them and we kept up conversation all night. By the way they offered to play us at football. I shall be able to tell you heaps more about the wonderful change that has come over with the dawn of Christmas when I get back. Today not a shot has been fired and the frost is still thick on the ground. Quite a welcome change after the wet. We are quite happy and hope you are the same. Your ever-loving 'Terrier' Billy."

We are reminded that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and longs to unite us in his love. However, we are prone to war time and time again. It is by prayer though that change happens and so we pray for peace. Today, we pray for peace in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.
Prayers for Peace
Holy Spirit, you hovered over the world as order came from chaos.
Bring order to the chaos of this world.
Send us peace.

Holy Spirit, you came to the disciples gathered in fear in the Upper Room.
Inspire and excite us when we are faced with change.
Send us peace.

Holy Spirit, you enabled the disciples to speak in many languages.
Give us gifts of communication across the nations.
Send us peace.

Holy Spirit, giver of life and love, help us to build your Church, and your world, with the gifts of gentleness, self-control, love, joy and peace.
Amen.

Pause for Silent Prayer and Contemplation

All Silently walk to the War Memorial

 

 

At the War Memorial

Opening Sentences (Revd Trish Mander)

And now 100 years on the world is still a dangerous place. Tonight as we honour the memory of these brave men, may we commit ourselves to work and pray for the pursuit of reconciliation and peace.

Commitment to Peace (Revd Trish Mander)

Let us pledge ourselves today to live as good neighbours, to honour the past, to care for all who are in need, and to live at peace among ourselves and with all people.

Lord God, Father of all, strengthen our hearts, and hands, and minds, to work together for peace; to see you in one another; and to seek your kingdom above all things; that your will may be seen to be done and your kingdom come, through Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings. Amen.

As we ask that God's will may be done in this and every place, so we pray together as Jesus Christ has taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven, ... (traditional form)

Closing Sentence (Graham Tyack)

Let us once again remember those from our village who made the ultimate sacrifice — for our tomorrow they gave their today

11 pm — Church lights turned on (Alan Mander) and Reveille (Bob Ellisdon)
The Blessing (Revd Trish Mander)
All depart quietly — candle by War Memorial is extinguished (Graham Tyack)

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