Friday, 1 July 2016

Remembering them ...... 100 years after the Battle of the Somme part 8 ...... a moving ceremony in Southern Cemetery

Major Charron salutes the fallen
Today’s ceremony of Remembrance was a moving tribute to the men who took part in the Battle of the Somme and by extension all those who did their bit during the Great War.

It was attended by members of the British Legion, two MPs, three councillors, and young people from local schools as well as  the staff of Southern Cemetery.

And because today is also Canada Day it was fitting that Major David Charron of the Royal Canadian Army had been invited to lay a wreath for those men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who are buried amongst their comrades from other Commonwealth armies.

Many of those present will have a personal reason for attending the ceremony.

In my case I can count six close family members who served in the Great War, including one who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915, as well as others who served in the German armed forces.

Members of the Northenden British Legion
All of mine survived and none are buried in Southern but that does not diminish the power of the service which was conducted by the Reverend Tim Nicholls, and included a reading and prayers, the poem In Flanders Fields and the Kohima Epitaph** and finished with O Canada! And “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.”

It was an elegant and poignant act of Remembrance made the more powerful by the mix of people who had chosen to attend.

The youngest will have been no more than ten, the eldest well into retirement, along with serving soldiers and ex servicemen and servicewomen as well as politicians and those who maintained the graves.

A moment of reflection
Some may well have gone on to the Cenotaph and in the Cathedral later in the day and will be attending the events in Heaton Park this evening as well as other services across Greater Manchester.

Each will have a part to play in that bigger act of Remembrance.

But for now my thoughts are back in Southern Cemetery with men like of John William Ingham of the 46th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  

He enlisted in 1916 was wounded at Vimy Ridge the following year and was buried in Southern Cemetery.

But he had died of his wounds in Sheffield at the Wharncliffe War Hospital and was brought back to Manchester because his wife lived in Longsight.

Jeff Smith MP and Councillor Mat Strong
And not far away is the memorial to Alleyne G Webber who was killed in action at Bauchops Hill in Gallipoli on August 6th 1915 and was “buried where he fell.”

His brother, Gerard died the following February here in Manchester “of wounds received in action before France on November 14th 1916."

Both men were 27 years old and they were from New Zealand.

Alleyne Webber was a Lance Corporal in the Otago Mounted Rifles which had been formed at the outbreak of the war and left New Zealand in the October for Egypt.

He died on the second day of an operation to capture Chunuk Bair a high point in the Sari Bair mountain range.

Major Charron
His brother who served in the 10th Royal Fusiliers had been wounded on the second day of what was to be the final large British attack during the Battle of the Somme.

Our own family loss came in the Second World War, and involved my uncle who died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

He had survived the Fall of Greece, was bombed at Basra and was captured in 1942 in the Far East.

And the twist is that he had been born in Cologne in 1922 two years after my German grandmother had married my grandfather who was a soldier in the British army of occupation after the Great War.

The wreaths
So a mixed day of emotions today in Southern Cemetery.

Location; Southern Cemetery

Pictures; today in Southern Cemetery, July 1 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Remembering the Battle of the Somme,
**When you Go Home, Tell them Of Us and Say, For their Tomorrow, We Gave our Today

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