Moving ceremonies mark the day the lights went out

standard bearers at the Sudbury ww1 civic serice ANL-140508-164227001
standard bearers at the Sudbury ww1 civic serice ANL-140508-164227001

Special ceremonies have been held all over the region this week to mark the start of the First World War.

Communities turned out in force to show that the sacrifices of so many brave soldiers have not been forgotten, despite the many years that have passed since.

More than 120 people gathered at Sudbury war memorial for a candlelit vigil on Monday evening to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

They joined the millions of people all over the country who spent an hour in candle light remembering those who died.

The simple and moving ceremonies were inspired by the words of Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey who when war was declared said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, they will not be lit again in our lifetime.”

In Sudbury, a candle was lit by the war memorial, and prayers and World War One poems were read out.

Shirley Smith from Sudbury Royal British Legion said: “Everyone held a candle during the reading of the names on the memorial, including the five civilians who were killed during the Zeppelin raid on Sudbury in 1916.

“Each soldier’s name, rank, regiment and the day they died were read by members of the RBL.

“All except the one candle on the memorial were extinguished after the reading.

“At 11pm the time war was declared on August 4, 1914, the candle on the memorial was extinguished.

“Everyone then departed in silence. It was a very moving tribute.

On Sunday a civic service commemorating the start of the war was held at Sudbury’s St Gregory’s Church.

The congregation of more than 100 people included Mayor of Sudbury Robert Spivey, district and town councillors, members of the British Legion, Sudbury Branch of the Royal Air Force Association, Air Cadets and local polic.

Names of the town’s war dead were read out and the last post was sounded followed by a two minute silence, and the laying of wreaths at the war memorial.

In Hadleigh, around 200 people attended a ‘Lights Out’ ceremony at the town’s war memorial in the High Street on Monday evening.

The event was organised by the Royal British Legion, whose Hadleigh chairman Mark Brennan, told those assembled:”The idea of this evening is to give people a chance to reflect on the war and its effects which are still being felt today.

“Each death caused a ripple which touched the lives of every family and it turned into a tidal-wave of grief.”

The ceremony included war songs being played and sung, wreath-laying and war poems being read by local people, including one by Hadleigh mayor Sue Angland.

Among the community groups attending were Hadleigh Sea Scouts, whose members laid a poppy wreath at the foot of the memorial. Descendants of those who fought in the war attended the ceremony, some proudly wearing their relative’s war medals.

Part of the High Street was closed off for the hour-long ceremony. Flags were laid on the memorial by members of the British Legion and a single trumpeter played the Last Post followed by a minute’s silence. As the light faded, a solitary candle was placed on the memorial and the floodlights were turned out, while the town fell silent, marking the time when the darkness of war first fell over Europe.

A whistle was blown, reflecting the signal that was used to tell troops to climb out of the trenches and begin a push towards enemy lines.

Mr Brennan told the assembled crowd: “This was probably the last sound that many of the soldiers ever heard.”

He announced that the Hadleigh Great War Centenary Project has been awarded £10,000 in Heritage Lottery funding.

The project aims to investigate the stories of all the 112 names on the First World War memorial, some of whom very little, if anything, is known about.

The project will also get a boost from a group of former Hadleigh High School pupils, aged 17-22, who are undertaking a 700-km cycle ride later in the year, visiting the final resting place or memorial of each of the Hadleigh soldiers who fell in France or Belgium during the Great War.

Proceeds will be split between the centenary project and the Poppy Appeal. For more information contact hadleighww1@gmail.com or write to Hadleigh Branch Royal British Legion, George Street, Hadleigh, IP7 2BB.

Nayland villagers turned out in force on Monday for 1914 Remembered, an event marking the centenary of the start of World War 1.

The commemoration started with a short service at the war memorial led by the Rev Adrian Mason at which the names of servicemen from Nayland, Wiston, Leavenheath, Stoke by Nayland and Polstead who lost their lives were read out.

Bugler Bill Slark sounded Last Post and Reveille and the exhortation was spoken by Ken Willingale.

The congregation then moved to St James’s Church for a programme of readings and music.

Parish council chairman and local historian Mary George gave a detailed description of how the war affected Nayland and the surrounding area. She said several thousand soldiers had marched through the village and 200 were billeted locally before being sent to France. By November 1918 197 former Nayland school pupils had served in the war with 46 fatalities.

Members of Nayland Choir presented musical items and John McCarroll joined fellow Village Players to read a selection of letters and poetry. Chris Hunt gave a talk on the five local war memorials.

A highlight of the event was the re-dedication of a memorial plaque to Alfred Edward Norfolk, who died aged 26 in hospital at Versailles after being wounded at the second battle for Ypres in 1915. The plaque was found in the grounds of the former chapel in Stoke Road.

The church also featured a display of photographs and narrative illustrating the impact of the Great War on Nayland and Wiston and the families of the men who died.

Finally an hour-long candlelit vigil was held at the war memorial for a shared moment of reflection. Poems were read by Roy Chapman, Malcolm Lukey, James Carver, Alex Murrison, Gerald Knox, David Heigham, Andrew Gowen, Chris Hunt and Ken Willingale.