This Sunday, 11th November 2018, marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and I will be attending a memorial service in Camborne to recognise the sacrifices made by all those who came from the town. There will be many other commemorative events during the course of this year and Remembrance Sunday will have particular poignancy. Remembrance Sunday is always supported by the various Cadet groups, Scouts and Brownies. It is great to see these movements going from strength to strength.
The period during the First World War was the bleakest period in European history. The scale of killing was horrific. Technology had advanced to make this perhaps the first "industrial war" with the use of chemical weapons, machine guns and powerful artillery but battleground tactics had not evolved to deal with the new realities that modern warfare had brought and there was perhaps a different attitude to human life.
Britain's Generals are often singled out for criticism although, to be fair, they did try to find new approaches to end the war earlier, from the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli to the invention of a primitive tank. Nevertheless, the scale of sacrifice is apparent through the names listed on memorial stones up and down the land and the war touched every community and virtually every family. I take one of my Christian names from Charles Botterell, my Great Grandfather who fought in the war and suffered ill health as a result of his shrapnel wounds.
In recent days, 10,000 flames have filled the moat encircling the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The flames are lit in the moat as a way of remembering those that have gone before us, it’s a powerful and poignant display. Closer to home there has also been a Ribbon of Poppies project set up by the Memorial Mob. As a result of their hard work, Poppies and wildflowers line the route along the A30, to London creating a living, breathing memorial.
This years’ Remembrance service will be particularly special as in the early morning of 11th November, more than 3,000 bell towers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will ring out with the sound of “half-muffled” bells, like a slow march, in solemn memory of those who lost their lives. Then, at midday, bellringers at each tower across the UK will remove the muffles from the clappers and at about 12.30 they will ring open. Before 1914 the vast majority of bellringers in the UK were male, but the loss of so many men to war meant many more women took up the role. Today there are between 30,000 and 35,000 men and women bellringers in the UK, and still more are being sought for Armistice Day. The aim is that bells sound not just in the UK but across the world.
The British and German governments are encouraging other countries to ring bells at the same times in the same way, expressing the reconciliation of former enemies in sound. The bells will ring out across the world to replicate the outpouring of relief that took place in 1918, and to mark the peace and friendship that we now enjoy between nations 100 years on from the end of the First World War.