St John’s Church, Hale, was packed on Saturday night when people of all generations gathered for the Farnham Festival of Remembrance, to pay tribute to all who have suffered and died in armed conflict and to pray for peace in a divided, war-torn world.
The Festival featured the Royal British Legion and other representatives of the armed forces in the form of A Company, 4th Battalion, Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment; the Sea Cadets of TS Swiftsure; 1 Battalion Aldershot Army Cadet Force; and 229 (Farnham) Squadron Air Training Corps.
Civilians were represented by the Mayor of Farnham, Cllr Pat Evans; the British Red Cross; St John Ambulance; the Guides; and three local schools – Badshot Lea Infant School, William Cobbett Primary School and Farnham Heath End School.
Music was provided by Farnham Brass Band; TS Swiftsure; the combined Parish choir; Frances Whewell; Wendy Edwards; Liv Jasper; Sara Burnie; and Dexter and Archie Dedalo-Skilton, Kyle Manson-Hing and Paris McCann, all extraordinarily talented musicians from Farnham Heath End School.
Narration was by Town Crier Jonathan Jones; and a service was led by Rev’ds Hannah Moore and John Morris, with additional reading by Bob Skinner, one of the leaders of Weybourne Community Church. The whole festival had been organised by Simon Alexander, to whom huge thanks and praise must go.
Each brought to the occasion a unique element, from the stirring percussion of the Sea Cadets to the moving tribute of the member of the Army reserve who spoke of his friend ‘Socks’ (so called because one time he forgot his socks when he was deployed) who was killed in Afghanistan. “When I hear The Last Post I think of him” he said.
There was the thoughtful poetry from William Cobbett pupils, the solemnity of the moment when the Guides processed in with the Torch of Remembrance, accompanied by Liv Jasper singing When the Lights Go On Again. There was so much more, including heart-rending poetry from World War One; a simple and beautiful poppy installation by children from Badshot Lea Infant School; memories of World War Two; and the building of a drum altar, draped with the Union Flag and the standard of the Royal British Legion, and topped with a Book of Remembrance of local people who had died in World War Two.
Intertwined with this was the sense that peace is a fragile thing and we must never stop striving and praying for it. In Aftermath, written by Siegfried Sassoon in the year after the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, Bob Skinner read the line: “Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’”
The young people sharing in the festival and receiving the gift of remembrance from older generations, seemed aware that this gift was a responsibility too and that the hope of peace lay in their hands as much as anyone else’s.
Above all, as prayers were said in front of the drum altar, there was an understanding that , however dark the world is, the suffering God is there in the midst of the darkness.
“Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.”
(Siegfried Sassoon, March 1919).