The 100th anniversary of the Armistice was always going to lead to special commemorations, but those of us who attended the service for Ashford’s Poppy Tribute on Sunday evening, culminating in the first lighting of the Ashford Beacon, witnessed a unique event.
The mixture of traditional readings with the brilliant modern poem Mother Land, performed by its author Kat Francois, was perfectly judged. The attendance was impressively large, and the applause for Land of Hope and Glory, played by the band of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, showed that old-fashioned patriotism is still alive and well in Ashford.
Like I suspect many others, I have been reflecting on the four years we have been commemorating the First World War. Many of the events around Ashford have been memorable. I still remember the effect of reading the letters back from the front by soldiers from Great Chart, displayed at Godinton House.
There was also the ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai, at which the type of tank on display in the Town Centre was used. The tank may have eventually led to the end of the terrible trench warfare, but being inside one of these early machines in battle must have been almost as terrifying.
Earlier this year in Charing we celebrated the only Victoria Cross awarded to a resident of the Borough, Frederick Coppins. He stormed a machine gun post while fighting with the Canadian Army. The permanent memorial in the ground in Charing serves as a fitting tribute to a brave man.
Ashford has played its full part in the national, and indeed global, commemoration of a terrible war. Many of these ceremonies have been master-minded by Councillor Stephen Dehnel, the Council’s military champion, who has done great work. We remember the past so that we can try to avoid the same mistakes. This is as important as it ever was.