Over the weekend of 27-28 September 2014, Huntingdon Town Council marked the 100th anniversary of World War One with a ‘Living History Weekend’ comprising of displays (including WWI cavalry demonstrations), soldier encampments, children’s activities, a sunset ceremony featuring the RAF Wyton Voluntary Band, singing from the RAF Wyton Military Wives, hymns, stories of local soldiers and poetry before the Mayor of Huntingdon lit the town’s beacon and observe a two minute’s silence to close the day’s celebrations.1
Static displays were provided by local organisations which included the Royal Naval Association, Royal Air Force Association, Blind Veterans UK, Girl Guides and the Model Aero Club. Re-enactment displays comprised of drill practice from the Norfolks, German, Russian and Austrian groups, and the WWI Cavalry display team.
Huntingdon & District Branch of the RNA were invited by Natasha Pierson, on behalf of the Town Council, to take part in the weekend and Sunset Ceremony and so on the Saturday morning, shipmates Pete Aston and Karl Webb setup the charity stall, shipmate Bill Small would be meeting up later to take part in the Sunset Ceremony.
Once the event had officially opened, shipmates Pete Aston and Karl Webb prepared for a day of chatting with the visitors and more importantly, aim to recruit new members for the Branch. It was a slow start, but it allowed time to have a quick look around the other stalls and see the displays. The members of the Cavalry team also went out and about and popped by the RNA stall to say hello before their first display.
Shipmates Graham and Becky Murray came down to Riverside Meadows to see the displays and to give their support to Pete and Karl. Later in the afternoon, the mayor of Huntingdon, Councillor Bill Hensley did a walk-round of all the stalls and to chat with those taking part in the weekend’s celebrations.
At the end of the day, the stalls were de-rigged, more visitors began arriving at Riverside Meadows for the Sunset Service. The RAF Wyton Military Wives and the RAF Wyton Area Voluntary Band took their places behind the Union Flag; Standard Bearers from the Royal British Legion joined shipmate Bill Small in the arena, St John’s Ambulance and scout groups formed a group to the side of the flagpole, RAF Wyton Personnel marched on and stood to the front, whilst the Mayor, Chair of Huntingdonshire District Council (Cllr Alan Mackender Lawrence), Brigadier Nick Davies (representing RAF Wyton), Councillors and shipmate Karl Webb also took their place for the service. Also present at the service was two Deputy Lieutenants of Cambridgeshire, Colonel Derek Bristow, and Captain Victor Lucas RN — a shipmate of Huntingdon & District RNA.
Once everyone was in position, the Reverend Andrew Milton began the service by welcoming everyone to the Riverside Meadows. A Drumhead display was placed in front of the Union Flag by RAF Wyton personnel (Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force representatives). The service comprised of hymns, local soldier stories and poetry as well as prayers and songs from the Military Wives Choir.
A pupil from Hinchinbrooke School read out the story of local soldier, Frank Clark. This was followed by readings from relatives of local World War military personnel in order to remember Sergeant George Edward Carter, Red Cross Nurse, Phyllis Goodliff, and Leading Seaman, John Gill.
The last reading was given by Colonel Derek Bristow OBE DL, who read ‘In Flanders Field’; this was followed by the laying of flowers at the Drumhead display.
The next hymn was ‘I vow to thee my country’, this was followed by the Parade Commander calling the RAF Wyton Parade to attention, Reverend Steve Radley, RAF Wyton’s Chaplain, gave the Blessing before the Wyton Area Voluntary Band played the evening hymn and sunset.
Once the Union Flag had been lowered, the Drumhead was removed.
The final act of the service was the playing of the National Anthem, with the RNA and RBL Standard Bearers lowered the Standards in the usual mark of respect.
Once the service had finished, the Mayor invited everyone to proceed to the Town’s Beacon which would be lit and a two minute’s Silence would be held to close the days events.
As the Mayor and Councillors headed off to the Town’s Beacon, a small crowd followed. At the Beacon, the Mayor was joined by the Deputy Mayor, the Chair of HDC, and S/M Victor Lucas DL. The Mayor thanked everyone for attending during the day, and for the evening service before he lit the Beacon.
With the Beacon burning brightly, a signal rocket was fired, marking the start of the two minute’s silence. A second rocket marked the close of the day’s events.
- Full details of the weekend activities were published in the Hunts Post on the 24th September 2014: http://www.huntspost.co.uk/what-s-on/reviews/visitors_to_step_back_in_time_and_honour_first_world_war_heroes_in_huntingdon_1_3781748 [↩]