The day was dry and fine but with a dim cast of greyness that descended as if it was remembering that it was not a day on which the sun should shine. A bright, airy and sunny autumnal morning would have been in stark contrast to the sombre mood that resonated around the Cenotaph in Blackpool and indeed the rest of the world on Remembrance Sunday.
A mood that was perhaps even more solemn than in other years due to the poignancy of 2016 being the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The first day on the Somme was, in terms of casualties, also the worst day in the history of the British Army, which suffered 57,470 casualties.
Somehow, the greyness of the weather seemed appropriate to the emotions of the occasion. And yet, thankfully, the dryness of the day brought out 100s of members of the public, from all walks of life, to ponder on the horrors of war and the suffering and sorrow it brings.
The mood of the occasion provoked those present to remember the sacrifices that so many brave members of the armed forces have made to preserve freedom and justice whilst fighting tyranny, oppression and terror. Old and young gathered in their droves, all firmly resolved with but one sentiment on their minds – ‘We will never forget’.
Dozens of Blackpool Freemasons were amongst those who assembled to pay homage and commemorate the fallen heroes. They joined Chairman of Blackpool Group John Turpin and vice chairman David Cook in attending the service and following the customary two minutes silence, John laid a wreath on behalf of the group, while Keith Beardmore, Provincial Grand Master of another Masonic Order, similarly laid a wreath on behalf of that Order.
The service was conducted with the dignity and gravity that one would expect, and as Rev Canon Dr Simon Cox, Anglican Area Dean of Blackpool introduced the day’s service a silence descended on the gathering. All were absorbing the spoken words and directing their own private thoughts to the circumstance of the day; perhaps of relatives lost, perhaps of the revulsions of war or acts of courage or just prayers of peace. Whatever those silent thoughts may have been, the moment spoke volumes. The message was clear that ‘We will never forget’.
The Act of Remembrance was spoken by a representative of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the Kohima Epitaph, ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say; for their tomorrow, we gave our today’ was by a gallant veteran before the release of the White Doves of Peace and laying of the wreaths began, always a moving part of any ceremony and made even more touching as the Rossall School Choir performed a magnificent rendering of ‘Amazing Grace’. The Rev Canon Father Bob Dewhurst of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church was also in attendance to provide the scripture readings and lead the Lord’s Prayer.
It seems that each year more and more people attend the service and pay their respects. It was right that the sun wasn’t shining on the day and that a slight chill in the air touched the nerves and hearts of those who were there. Somehow it made it more certain that ‘We will never forget’.