November 11th. Remembrance Day.
I was stationed in Wetherby, Yorkshire, in 1948. Training to be a Writer - Pay Roll and correspondence as per Royal Naval requirements. It was November 11th and a Remembrance Parade was going to take place at York Minster, not too far away. We, as Naval Ratings, had volunteered and been chosen as the Honour Guard. It was cold - bitterly so, with a strong biting wind, along with leaden clouds that promised heavy rain - perhaps snow? - could fall at any moment. However, plans had been laid and we were bussed to York in full dress - but without raincoats or overcoats though it was expected to deteriorate before the Remembrance Service was over. Nonetheless, though a trifle nervous, we were proud to take part., Even though we were still relatively raw recruits, having only passed our Part I training - at HMS Raleigh, Torpoint, Cornwall, a month before.
We formed up in double file, with rifles shouldered. A Royal Marine Band, began to play, and orders were given for the Remembrance Parade to begin. It was a sombre moment and one that I have never forgotten, as we marched through the city streets, deep lined with people. I was proud to be one of those chosen, and marched as though I had been decorated with the highest honour!! I know all my messmates felt the same way, and this added a most noticeable air of pride and humility to us all.
Arriving at the Minster we had to ground arms, and hand them over to a Petty Officer who was waiting beside a truck outside the Minster grounds. Rifles, or any other arms were not allowed inside the Minster. Then doffing caps, we went, single file, inside - much warmer than the cold outside, and there we joined the many worshippers who had come to remember those who had fallen. After some prayers were recited, hymns were sung, then the Service address was given by a Bishop, who gave the large congregation a heart rending sermon.
As his address continued, I gave a quick glance around, and I could see a large number of Veterans - in the pews - proudly wearing their Medals, all with a Poppy in their lapels - even as we did ourselves. Some in wheelchairs, on crutches: some with an arm missing, or an eye shade, carrying a white cane, plus other aids, scattered throughout various parts of the Minster. Numerous Service flags were also very evident.
When the Service was ended, with the names of The Local Fallen being read out - it was the time of the Korean Conflict - never called a “War” - tears could be seen in the eyes of many who paid their respect to remembered fallen family members, as well as those Veterans who recalled their personal Fallen comrades. Yes, it was hard not to feel the same way, when I also called to mind, those I had known, who had paid the ultimate price.
That November 11th, 1948 was one of the most poignant and Memorable Moments I can ever recall.
Rhymer. November 10th, 2019.