11th November 2018: Notwithstanding touch and go skies, a record crowd turned out to the Long Gardens in Cheltenham this Remembrance Sunday, which marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. From Neptune’s Fountain all the way along the promenade, spilling over the road as far as the telephone boxes by Cavendish House, the street was lined with people. One dignitary remarked she had never seen so many in attendance at the service; and neither had I.
Old and young gathered to acknowledge the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives in past and present conflicts, and to swap the odd word with strangers who had come to do the same. Umbrellas did cover the crowd from time to time, but in the main the weather was kind.
Proceedings began at five to eleven. The mayor gave a couple of words of welcome, following which the crowd joined in to sing the hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past. A police officer then played the Last Post and the customary two minutes’ silence was observed. After the Reveille, the commemoration continued with prayers, hymns and the national anthem, played by the splendid Cheltenham Silver band.
The band continued to play while the various assembled representatives each in turn laid down a wreath at the foot of the war memorial, in order to pay their special respects and tribute to the fallen. The crowds moved back onto the pavement in readiness for the March Past in front of the municipal offices, and on the high steps where I was standing, one little girl was allowed by her parents to climb up onto a raised flower trough so she could see the soldiers and cadets marching by with their colours and standards raised. It was particularly gratifying to see so many parents bringing their young children along to the event. Though the service is sombre and quiet for little ones to watch, the children I saw were plainly excited to hear the music, see the military parade and to be part of this precious ceremony.