On Sunday morning we marked a significant Remembrance Sunday: 100 years to the day since the end of fighting in the First World War.
Our church has been around long enough that we lost members in both the First and Second World Wars – 14 young men in the first and 4 in the second – and we have war memorials that honour them.
It is our plan to get these memorials appropriately restored and put them back up on the wall as part of our new building project
Looking at the memorials there are some things that stand out:
- There were two sets of brothers killed in the First World War: Provins and Snell. It must have been a terrible, double tragedy for those families
- There is one surname we still know well: Gloster. We still have Glosters in our church today and they are related.
- There is one surname that appears on both boards: MacDonald. They were a father and son, one dying in each war.
When we realise that our church was much smaller in 1914 – 1918, only about 200 people, it brings the scale of that loss into sharp focus.
Remembering our history
On Sunday we observed the two minute silence (silent prayer!) movingly marked by Andrew Dennington playing the Last Post on the flugelhorn.
We also looked at the stories of a few of the men who died … such as
Died 3/11/1917; Age 33
Harry died fighting in Syria (a country at war again today)
Woking News and Mail said at the time: “He was a member of the Baptist Church and was well known in this district as a local preacher”.
It goes on to say that he was in charge of a Sunday School, and that he used to do work with poor caravan dwellers in Kingfield (where we were then planting a church). He left behind a widow and a young son.
Died 12/10/1915; Age 20
Charles was killed when a shell exploded next to him in a trench in Flanders Fields.
He worked on the railway in Woking and he loved football and played in local team. He was also part of a local Bible class.
Died 9/10/1918; Age 25
Henry, known as Harry, went to school in Ripley.
He signed up at the start of the war and was injured in Gallipoli. Having recovered he was sent to France, where he got septic poisoning. Having recovered once more he was sent back third time where he was involved in tank warfare. This time he got wounded in the leg and foot.
Recovering once more he was sent back for a final time. This last time he was caught in a Mustard Gas attack which damaged his lungs. He died of pneumonia in hospital as a result. Harry received two medals.
Died on or after 28/11/1917
Gilbert was the organist and choirmaster of our church. These days we have no organ or choir, but we have lots of great musicians. He died fighting in Cambrai, France. He was so well thought of in the church that he got an extra plaque which is in the pictures above.
It seems that he signed up to fight, in 1917, after a number of younger men from the church had been killed. He did not last long himself.
A letter sent back from a friend in his regiment said this, “Gilbert hated war, but by absolute will power he suppressed his gentler feelings and made a good soldier. He was a jolly companion and did his duty right to the last”
He left behind a widow and two sons: Harvey and Hamish. Hamish died in 1943, in World War Two, as part of the crew of a Blenheim Bomber.
So many lives
We could have mentioned a lot more detail and a lot more stories, but we looked at these few as a way of remembering. We remembered their lives, we remembered their sacrifice and we remembered that these young men were not so different to us.
They also represent many millions of others who have died in war. It’s important that we remember and are thankful for the price that other people paid for our freedom, and we should also be thankful to God for his protection over his.
Ben Martin gave a short talk during the meeting, looking at the story of Lazarus from John 11. He focussed in on one short Bible verse:
John 11v35, “Jesus wept”
Through Jesus we can see that God himself feels grief, and that he is able to stand with us in our times of trouble.
It’s reassuring to know, when faced with tragedy ourselves, that God is is not indifferent to our pain and our loss. It’s reassuring to know that God is able to weep.