The Act of Commemoration on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War held on the 4th August, 11am at the Laindon War Memorial was attended by approximately seventy people which included Baroness Angela Smith amongst the various dignitaries.
Reverend Colin Hopkinson, Rectory of St Mary’s and St Johns’s of Langdon Hills officiated.
Councillor Terri Sargent read the following message from the Mayor:
Good Morning, and thank you for coming. I’d like to thank all those who have played a part in putting together this morning’s events. In particular, I’d like to pay tribute to the rectors of our local parishes for their efforts in overcoming the logistical challenge of hosting Acts of Commemoration at four different locations simultaneously.
One hundred years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany and entered a war that would cost the world over 15 million lives. Several hundred of those individuals had personal connections to the area we now call the Borough of Basildon. They were born here, they lived here, they worked here – and their families mourned here.
For that reason, it was vital that we came together at memorials across the Borough this morning to pay tribute to them.
And as four years of centenary commemorations stretch before us, it seems that our schools, churches and local community groups have all risen to the task. From services and education days, to art exhibitions and theatre productions – they have planned a truly staggering number of events.
I believe it is a credit to our community that we have embraced the centenary of the First World War so passionately. We can only hope our efforts ensure that future generations never forget those who gave their lives in the conflict. But the centenary also represents an opportunity to draw attention to the continuing sacrifices that the Armed Forces make on our behalf. Basildon was one of the first Boroughs in the country to sign up to a “community covenant” – pledging our support to the Armed Forces Community, and forming a Civil/Military Partnership Board that is tasked with ensuring that we never let them down.
In a short while, the Basildon Heritage Group will present the Roll of Honour which they have worked tirelessly to compile. The book is a record of the individual tragedies that The Great War inflicted across our Borough. And so if you’ll permit me, I’d like to finish my remarks by briefly highlighting two names contained within it.
The first is George Burnett. A police officer and a member of Wickford Cricket Club, Burnett was called up to serve in the 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards in August 1914.
The second is Carl Fischer. Like Burnett, Fischer was also living in Wickford when the conflict broke out; and he too was called up to serve. But unlike Burnett, Fischer was not a British national, and he did not serve in the British army. Instead, he fought in the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division – of the German army.
A news report from the time tells us that as Fischer departed Wickford on the August bank holiday, he had tears in his eyes, expressing anguish that he had to leave home to fight against his friends.
Both Burnett and Fischer lost their lives in October 1914, fighting on opposite sides of the Battle of Ypres. They were the first recorded deaths from Wickford and two of the Borough’s earliest casualties.
Over the next four years, their names and all the names that sit beside them in the Roll of Honour should be etched in our memories.
Followed by Wilfrid Owen’s poem – 1914 – :
War Broke: and now the Winter of the world
With perishing great darkness closes in.
The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,
Is over l the width of Europe whirled.
Rending the sails of progress, Rent or furled
Are all Art’s ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin
Famines of thought and feeling. Love’s wine’s thin
The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.
For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,
And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,
An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,
A slow grand age and rich with all increase.
But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need
of sowings for new Spring and blood for seed.
This was then followed by a special reading by the Royal British Legion and then a presentation to the Rector a Roll of Honour of the district researched and compiled by the Basildon Borough Heritage Group.
There was a Prayer of Commemoration, Hymn: Jerusalem, then a final Blessing, with the service finishing on a rendering of three War songs of the time: ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and Goodbyee-ee – Goodbyee –ee.
It was then over to the Manor Mission for refreshments, our thanks most go to the Mission for making their hall available and organising the refreshments with help from members of St Mary’s congregation also to the Basildon Gospel Choir that rehearse at St Nicholas Church for helping out with the singing and making sure we all kept in tune, also John Dennis and Tony Dunhill for playing the Guitar and Accordion and we must not forget Basildon Council for organising the event.
A special thanks must be given to the amount of work the Love Laindon Project Team did in the weeks leading up to the service in clearing the area up around the memorial and the planting of new shrubs and the councils work on the surrounding walls and footpaths.
The Roll of Honour book is in loose leaf format and gives details of those who lost their lives on our behalf who had connections with the old parishes: Laindon, Langdon Hills, Dunton, Lee Chapel and Basildon. The book (Volume 1) will be on display at St Nicholas Church and a further copy will be presented to St Mary’s, Langdon Hills on the 25th August and at a later dated a copy will be lodged at Laindon Library.
Simultaneous commemoration took place at St Martin’s Church, Basildon Town Centre, Memorial in Howard’s Park, Pitsea and The Wickford War Memorial.