Thursday 21 April 2016

Memorial Service at the Front

Good Friday 21st April 1916: This Good Friday it seems fitting to quote from a letter written by Corporal Runham of the 1st Bedfords(1): “On Sunday April 16th we had a commemoration service for officers and men of the 1st Norfolk and 1st Bedford Regiments who were killed in action between March 8th and April 16th(2). The service was choral, the choir and divisional band supplying the music. Brigadier-General Turner, commanding the brigade, was present, as were also his staff. Both regiments were well represented, nearly every officer being present, and the hut was packed to its utmost limit. The service was taken by our chaplain and commenced with the singing of Hymn 223(3) “Pilgrims of the Night”. Then came the sermon, the chaplain especially reminding his audience how suddenly the call came to some of them and urging them to repent, pointing out “in the midst of life we are in death”. The whole sermon was followed with rapt attention by everybody. Hymn 231 followed “For ever with the Lord” and then the Gloria. After this came the hymn “Abide with Me”. Immediately the names of those commemorated were read out by an officer of each regiment, the list including the late Corporal Wheatley, well-known to many in Biggleswade and the villages around. The band rendered the Dead March, all standing, and the service ended with the National Anthem. The service was the first of its kind we have had out here and will long live in the memory of some of us, especially as the day was the anniversary of one of our struggles with the enemy, the fight for Hill 60, also a casualty list for both regiments”.

“We are all confidently awaiting the end as we are sure of victory. By no means are we fed up. Neither do we want a patched-up peace, as we know this will mean a repetition of all we have had to contend with”.

(1) Corporal Chris Runham, from 30 Saint John’s Street, Biggleswade, would be killed in action at Arras on 23rd April 1917; he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial
(2) Two officers and two other ranks in the case of the Bedfords

(3) Presumably in Hymns Ancient and Modern

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