As the custodians of Remembrance, The Royal British Legion called on the nation once again to unite in honouring the memory of the fallen, by commemorating the contribution made by British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.
As is usual here in Spain, the occasion was also used to pay homage to the many Spanish servicemen and civilians who have died or been injured either in military service or in terrorist attacks, particularly those that have occurred this year in Barcelona, Cambrils, Manchester, London and elsewhere across the Iberian Peninsula.
In the Vega Baja services got underway on Friday at the Phoenix International School in San Miguel where children, staff and parents joined with members of the Orihuela Costa RBL to pay their respects to the fallen.
Accompanied by the Phoenix Band the children sang a selection of hymns and songs from the period, before extracts were read from the actual diary of Mathew Hadley, a soldier with the 38th (Welsh) Division at Mametz Woods during the First Battle of the Somme. Mathew is the Great, Great, Great Grandfather of 7-year old Harry Griffin, a pupil at the school.
The extracts recalled the battle on 10 July 1916, listing many names of the 400 soldiers that were killed or injured, including his brother Reg, before they reached the wood.
On Saturday morning the Armistice Day event was held by the Torrevieja RBL at La Siesta Church in Torrevieja. Packed, both inside and out, the service was attended by members of Service Associations from across the region as well as representatives of the Provincial and the city council.
The RBL standards, as well as those of RAFA, RNA and RMA, were led to the church by the splendid Torrevieja Pipes and Drums.
As they formed up in front of the altar the service got underway with a prayer from Father Richard Seabrook , officiating chaplain, followed by the RBL Exhortation and then, most significantly of all, the Last Post played by Ian Gibson of the JB Brass Band.
The lessons were read by Branch President Gill Burden and Carol Stockwell in English while Carmen Morate the Torrevieja Councillor for International Residents and Carlos González, Director of OARI read the lessons in Spanish. After the service the standards, followed by dignitaries and wreath holders, moved to the cenotaph located in the church garden area, where the wreath laying ceremony was led by Cllr Morate.
A superb carvery lunch followed for members of the RBL and their guests at the Club in Quesada.
Saturday evening saw Campoverde Church take centre stage with a programme of contemplative readings and music, ‘Oh Soldier, Soldier’, presented by Mike and Pip Shail with George Piper. The event allowed the congregation the opportunity a pleasant diversion of reflective thought during the remembrance weekend, and was extremely well received by a sizeable gathering, with the retiring collection shared between the church and the RBL.
Sunday morning’s focus of Remembrance was on the Capilla de las Mil Palmeras where the Orihuela Costa Branch held their annual service led by Pastor Keith Brown.
The guests included the British Vice Consul Sara Munsterhjelm and the Chairman of the RBL Spain District North, Don Cubbon. They were joined by the mayor of Pilar de la Horadada, Ignacio Ramos, and councillors along with President of the Partdo Popular in the Province of Alicante, Damaso Aparicio and Orihuela Costa councillor for Overseas Residents Sofia Alvarez.
The service was conducted by Branch Chaplain, Pastor Keith Brown. He was assisted by lay preacher Stephen Treseder. Diana Wiltshire and Branch Vice Chairman Walter Shatford read the lessons in English while Ignacia Ramos and Francisco Morales of the Guardia Civil read in Spanish. Nicola read the Ode of Remembrance.
Once again there was a moving A capella performance of ‘Bring him home’ faultlessly sung by long time RBL supporter Rebecca Holt. The Phoenix Concert Band provided the music led by their MD David Last.
The last post was performed by the Costa Blanca’s premier bugler Ian Gibson while the lament, ‘Lock Rannoch’, was played by the Torrevieja Pipes and Drums.
The one major addition from last year was the performance of a small children’s choir from the Phoenix International School prior to and after the service, which received rapturous applause from the congregation numbering in excess of 500 people. Two children from the school also carried the peace candle to the altar reciting a short prayer after they had done so.
The service was concluded with the National Anthems of Spain and the United Kingdom after which the ceremony then moved out to the Garden of Remembrance where the RBL, British Consul, Pilar de la Horadada Council, Orihuela and other Service Wreaths from the Royal Navy, the Royal Air force and Royal Marines Associations were laid, after which branch and members of the public added their own poppy crosses in memory of family members and lost friends.
Quite what the Costa Blanca would do without the wonderful Torrevieja Pipes and Drums I really don’t know but once again, the company were magnificently turned out in Mil Palmeras in support of the RBL and the local community.
Flanked by a large number of the general public the Pipes and Drums then led over a hundred and fifty members of the congregation from the church to the Mil Palmeras Olympia Restaurant where members and guests enjoyed a delightful buffet lunch.
Gran Alacant and La Marina Branch of the Royal British Legion, in association with the Ayuntamiento of San Fulgencio, also held their annual Service of Remembrance on Sunday.
This open-air service was held in the main square of San Fulgencio – the Plaza de Constitución. It was conducted in both Spanish and English, by a Catholic Priest, Father Jose Francisco, and Anglican Priest, Father Richard Seabrook.
It was back to Campoverde for the final event of the weekend where, on Sunday evening, participants were encouraged to take along photographs of family members who had served or who were currently serving, so that they could be displayed and blessed.
Once again the event was well supported and following the last post, reveille and the laying of a wreath, many of the congregation stayed behind to enjoy refreshments in the church garden.
The National Service of Remembrance, also held yesterday (Sunday) at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, was originally conceived as a commemoration of the war dead of the First World War but after the Second World War the scope of the ceremony was extended to focus on the nation’s dead of both World Wars, and in 1980 it was widened once again to extend the remembrance to all who have suffered and died in conflict in the service of their country and all those who mourn.
But of course Remembrance is not just about those who fought in the last two World Wars, it is also held in respect of those involved in the many other conflicts worldwide and those who are still fighting for peace and freedom even now.
It is also about all of us learning from the past and resolving to make the world a better place in which to live, and with so many more children becoming involved in the event here on the Costa Blanca we are now rather more assured that the future of remembrance is in increasingly safe hands.