It had been decided some months ago that a copse of trees should be planted as a living memorial to our fallen in the Great War, covering the four villages that share the Kennet Valley Hall – Fyfield, Lockeridge, West Overton and East Kennett. The whips had been offered by the Woodland Trust, as part of their 10,000 trees project, to commemorate all those Wiltshiremen who set off to war and never came back. The bottom of the Recreation Field was chosen as the site.
Since that decision, the community has been busy organising the planting of the trees, designing a plaque recording the names of the fallen (to form a new ar memorial), and planning a suitable ceremony of dedication. We have researched the background to our current war memorials – the Fyfield lychgate, the listed stone cross at West Overton and the tablet in East Kennett church – and we wanted to reflect their dedication ceremonies in our own: to show that we still remember. We also wanted to follow in the strong tradition of our village life by holding a big community tea party afterwards!
Thus, on a blowy but fine Autumnal day, a large number of villagers, about 250 we think, assembled in the Kennet Valley Hall on Remembrance Sunday afternoon to commemorate 100 years since the WW1 Armistice of 11/11/1918.
Everyone arrived very promptly and we were soon ready to process out to the newly planted copse. Maria, our Rector, with Gill Mackichan, led the way, followed by the Chairman of the Parish Council, Nick Fisk, and the Chairman of East Kennett Parish Meeting, Leslie Jenkinson. All the villagers and their children gathered round – with a seat for Sir Sydney Giffard, who at the age of 93 had again come up from Dorset to commemorate his three uncles – and the ceremony began.
Maria completed the planting of a fine oak sapling and dedicated the copse; Nick Fisk unveiled the plaque; Kristian Smith, lately in the Forces, read out all 32 village names of the fallen and delivered the verse “At the going down of the sun…”; John Bartle sounded the Last Post followed by Reveille; Maria said a prayer and the Blessing. Finally, two of our schoolchildren read out prayers composed in school, which, as Maria said, emphasised beautifully that Remembrance and hope for a peaceful world would continue through our children and their children. It was a dignified and moving ceremony.
The tea that followed was wonderful: the Friends of the school had decorated the Hall with bunting and flags, the children showed some artwork, and the research done on our war memorials could be seen on display boards (it is published on the Upper Kennet News website).
Once everyone had a cup of tea and a slice of delicious cake, the children treated us to a splendid performance of WW1 songs. Thereafter, the noise level increased as the community settled down to enjoy talking to old friends and neighbours, and consuming more scones, cakes and cups of tea so generously provided by the Friends of the school. Donations for tea were invited and just over £180 has been given to the Fyfield Lychgate restoration fund.
The whole event was a great success. Not only had we shown that “We will remember them” but it was heartening proof that our villagers will gladly help in the organisation of occasions like these, attend in numbers, and enjoy themselves doing so!
The members of the Working Group that planned the event were – Gill Mackichan, David Snape, Anstice Baring, Linda Davies, Emma Russell (Head Teacher of Kennet Valley School) and myself, Mary Spender. We were helped enormously by the School and Friends, Kennet Valley Hall Committee and many individual villagers.
We should like to thank the Woodland Trust for the trees, Pete Griffith Jones for permission to plant on his land, and the Marlborough Area Board for their advice and funding of the plaque.