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Archive for July, 2009

RESPECTS

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He had been the oldest man at 113 and WW1 veteran,
and I wanted to pay my respects to this wonderful gentleman
and the generation he represented.

After a short train ride I arrived at Brighton Station and headed down Queens Road. I knew the funeral procession would be leaving St Dunstans, high on the cliff at Ovingdean about 11.15am, drive along the coast road, up West Street in to Dyke Road.

I turned right in to Church Road and climbed the hill, passing a large BBC screen positioned overlooking the churchyard.

Henry4DSCF3718Army cadets stood at the gates to St Nicholas Church handing out ‘Order of Service’ booklets. Already a number of people were gathered in the churchyard and photographers and camera crews were setting up.

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The church bells were ringing and the screen showing the church interior indicated people were taking their seats. I noticed the time was passing quickly, the service was due to start at midday.

I walked quickly to the junction of Western Road and Dyke Road to wait. Beside me stood an old soldier smartly dressed in blazer and beret. The leading Police outriders turned the corner from North Road into view, stopping the traffic. The funeral cars followed behind. The many people lining the route started clapping as the cars passed by and the WW2 veteran at my side saluted.

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The cars headed up the hill toward St Nicholas Church. I followed, along with many others. The bells continued ringing and we waited and watched as the guests made their way into the church. A Policeman stood at the church entrance as standard bearers took their places and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester arrived. Preceded by the Mayor and other dignitaries including both Army and Naval personnel, Vice Admiral and Air-Vice Marshal.

The bells fell silent as the family arrived followed by the minister and pallbearers carrying the coffin. It was a very moving moment which hushed the crowd. The only sounds were of the cameras and the vicars words.

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We moved across to sit or stand on the grass in the summer sunshine to watch the screen and listen to the service. It was a very moving service and spoke of a warm, generous man of great humility. We heard about ‘Grandpop, England’ from his American Grandson and tributes from the army and airforce.

For me it was the words of a poem read beautifully by his great granddaughter that moved me most, called ‘Distant Fields’.
I thought of my own Grandfather who had experienced the horrors of WW1 when he fought at Gallipolli and in the French trenches. Like Henry, he had returned safely, but he had lost friends at his side and never spoke of those dark days.

———

I touched his hand and his touched mine
And silently he touched my mind

I looked into his telling eyes
But couldn’t hear the silent cries…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

They knew not how or when or where
But all knew what they stood for there

The friends they lost, the sights they saw
The mudled minds with nerves so raw

His furrowed hands, with wrinkles worn
Weaving trenches, from smoothness torn…

So frail, so thin, yet firm and strong
Like those before amongst the throng…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

As sight and hearing fade away
His senses live in another day

When sounds were etched upon the mind
and sights could not be left behind

The memories that churn around
Of friends and colleagues never found…

…Of men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

But now the time has come to go
To leave behind the world below

And meet again with comerades lost
Who lost their lives at such great cost

To laugh and joke and share some time
With those cut down within their prime

He touched my hand, they touched my mind
And many of you now left behind

So remember them, who gave their lives
and left children and their wives…

Remember those for us who fought
And don’t forget to spare a thought

…for men that passed so long ago
In distant fields, in rain and snow

– Attributed to Lieutenant Commander John Scivier, Royal Navy


henry7DSCF3738We were lucky indeed to have had a man amongst us who didn’t choose to be born when he was, or live as long as he did. But despite all he had seen and experienced, choose to be a kind, generous and able teacher, in how we should treat one another.

His parting words of wisdom to his American grandchildren on his return to England after visits with them was simply, ‘Be good’.

We heard about the deep love he had shared with his wife of over 50 years and how he had passed on his wisdom to the many school children he had been involved with.

The service continued, hymms were sung and words spoken and the bells started to ring once again.

As his cofin was carried out of the church the bells feel silent and after a short while a lone bugler could be heard over the silent crowd. During the one minute silence people quietly made their way to other vantage points ready to watch the cars leave the church. Camera presenters watched their monitors.

The Reveille sounded and the church bells started to toll. At this point, bi-planes flew over the church in the blue sky to the sound of clapping from the crowd.

We waited, and as the car left the church and passed by, a ripple of respectful applause accompanied it

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It hadn’t been a media circus and there was no heavy security. It had just seemed like a funeral for a well loved man, who had friends in ‘high places’ and we, as the general public had been allowed to show our respects in a dignified way.

It had been a memorable and moving experience. One I shall not forget.
RIP Henry Allingham, and thank you.

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Take a peek at this 5 minute video made by a local film producer.

Based in Worthing, Richard Vobes creates and produces his own video and audio content for his website. Some of which is local to us here in Lancing/Shoreham.

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New memory posted

Pauline & Graham Dyson, we moved down to the Brighton Road in the early 50’s. I also went to Irene Avenue,and remember well the Heene Rd. baths. We were one of the first families to have a beach hut, the only other hut on Widewater beach was owned by Barnado’s. After emigrating to Oz in 1970 and travelling the world I have finally settled on Widewater.

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