I was at Remembrance Day at Winchelsea on Sunday. As at Rye and elsewhere, the two minutes silence starts and ends with rockets let off by the Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes. This year, the church and corporation seem to have decided to ignore the rockets but they did not bother to talk to the Bonfire Boyes about it. Instead they used the church clock. This is always wrong. The result was that an embarrassing farce. The priest leading the service started his prayer only to be interrupted by the first rocket (which, I have been told by someone watching TV, coincided precisely with the start of the two minutes silence at the Cenotaph). When he had finished, there was a two minutes silence, then the mayor started reading out the names of the war dead until he was interrupted by the second rocket.
Did the church and corporation not realise that this would happen if they did not talk to the Bonfire Boyes? Perhaps they did. They seemed to want to use Remembrance Day to make a point about the status they believe they should be given in the town. Every year, Winchelsea’s parish councillors, who are the elected representatives of the town, lay a wreath on behalf of the community. This year, the councillor laying their wreath was told that he had to wait until the end because he was just a member of the public. So he followed such civic pillars as the Rye Round Table, someone calling themselves “Winchelsea wartime residents still in residence” and two wreaths laid privately by retired naval and army officers!
The person laying down the law was a member of the corporation, who claimed to have organised an order of service by virtue of his authority as the chief collector for the Poppy Appeal in Winchelsea. As it turned out, there was no order of any sort. The procession from the church could not get to the war memorial because people were blocking the path, the worthies of the corporation were unsure when to remove their hats and the people with wreaths stood around waiting to see who was next. All a bit of a shambles really.
Remembrance Day is for the whole community. It is not owned by the church, the corporation or Poppy Appeal collectors. Out of respect, I hope the whole town will be consulted about next year.
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