The Showmen’s Guild’s Remembrance Service took place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on 21 November 21.
Last year, the service was unable to take place because of Covid restrictions so the Guild was particularly pleased to be back again at their own memorial at Alrewas.
Paying tribute to showmen fallen in two world wars is of great importance to the Guild and there was a very good turnout of people who had travelled from all over the country.
This is in addition, of course, to the Guild’s participation in the March Past at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.
The service was led by Yorkshire Section Chaplain the Reverend Allen Bagshawe. Guild Senior and Junior Vice Presidents John Thurston and Keith Carroll, along with National Treasurer John Edwards were in attendance.
President Philip Paris, a regular attendee, had to send his apologies this time as he was attending his daughter Italia’s wedding, rescheduled after being postponed due to Covid restrictions.
In his sermon the Reverend Bagshawe focused on the work of the Royal British Legion which celebrates its centenary this year.
The British Legion, as it was originally known, was founded in May 1921 to bring together parallel organisations that had been set up to support returning soldiers, those with challenges, and the families of those who had lost their lives.
Some returned from World War I to find themselves homeless, others had debilitating injuries that made any kind of normal life very difficult. The British Legion was there to help them and it remains one of the country’s favourite charities, Rev Bagshawe explained.
The poppy became the Legion’s symbol, following the poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician John McCrae, who served and died in the war, which refers to the red poppies growing among the graves of fallen soldiers.
In 1922 the British Legion purchased a factory in the Old Kent Road in London, employed disabled war veterans and started making poppies. To this day, ex-servicemen and women are still involved in making the poppies.
The Legion went on to buy a house in Ypres, Belgium, named Haig House after Field Marshal Haig, so that people could go to Belgium after the war and visit the sites where their loved ones were lost. It also bought country houses to set up homes for soldiers who would need perpetual care because of their injuries.
The Queen gave the British Legion the royal imprint in 1971, its 50th year. The Royal British Legion continues doing its work today, not only remembering the fallen but supporting and serving ex-Forces personnel and their families.
Rev Bagshawe noted how much people have been challenged during the pandemic and how things that we took for granted were taken away from us. Just as they did 100 years ago, people are having to adapt, to understand what has changed and to pick up their lives again.
“We must continue to show love in own life sharing with our family, friends and wherever we can, compassion to a world in need”, he said.
Senior Vice President John Thurston and Junior Vice President Keith Carroll paid tribute to the individual fallen showmen by reading out all the names listed on the memorial, Section by Section.
The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by the National Memorial Arboretum Bugler and the laying of wreaths was led by Senior Vice President John Thurston, followed by Section officials and individual showpeople.
Main photo: Senior Vice President John Thurston led the laying of wreaths.