For their sake, wear a Poppy
This year the last veteran of the first world war died. It was only recently we heard their stories and how that conflict stayed with them for ever. What do we know of these wars? We are now 70 years from the start of the second world war. Next year will see the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk and also of the Battle of Britain.
Sometimes it all seems so long ago and many of us here have no experience of those two wars.
Do you know that old man, Mr Smith could be his name, who lives down your street and fought in a war. He may be elderly now but at one time he was a young man who went to war for his country. He left his family for years at a time to fight in a far away land. Why did he do this? What made our brave young men and women leave their family and homes? It was not just to protect the people he knew but the people who were to come. These young people were protecting the future. Our future. Many died and many returned, injured and scarred by their experience. Maybe by remembering Mr Smith, the old man down the street, we can begin to understand what this meant.
For his sake, wear a Poppy
This year it was an honour to meet and spend some time with Mr Harry Wheeler and his family. Harry is a D-day Veteran. He lives just down the street and has an incredible story to tell and he is not our only local veteran.
There are others who live just down the street somewhere near you.
Mac Rutherford served in the Fleet Air Arm, he holds an MBE, a DSO and the Reserve Forces Decoration.
Nic Rutherford served in the Royal Navy and holds the Atlantic Star, the Burma Star and the Reserve Decoration
And Pat Rutherford who served in Sri Lanka as a Wren on Japanese radio intercept work
From the Army we have Joe Ball who fought at Arnham.
There is Ken Clark who for many years gave the Kohima Epitaph at this service. He was captured at Dunkirk and was a POW in Poland for five years.
From the Royal Air Force, my Father Bob Mitchell and my husband’s father Charles Hodgkin and his mother Jean Hodgkin who was in the WRAF
And Jack Field who was in Bomber Command dropping mines in enemy coastal waters.
Another veteran is Robin Appleford of Fighter Command, Battle of Britain, Desert Airforce and flew spitfires and hurricanes. He also flew in the 1946 Victory Parade.
We think of Daphne Hughes, who holds the France Germany Star and later served in India, Burma, Singapore and Sumatra.
And Diane Cox – who was at Bletchley Park working with the Ultra decryption system.
These are a few of the many local veterans who have all played their part.
For all their sakes wear a poppy
And what of those who did not return whose names are on these memorial tablets on the Town Hall. And what of their families who were left behind.
For their sake wear a poppy.
Of course there have been conflicts since the end of that war and they still go on. There are many here today who have their own memories of these other conflicts. In Malaya, in Suez, in Aden and in Cyprus, in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, in Kuwait and in Iraq and so much in our minds today must be Afghanistan. Many of us know those who have served there or who are about to serve there. Every day we hear of another brave young soldier in this far away place laying down his or her life in order to protect our way of life and another soldier did die today.
For their sake wear a poppy.
We all support the Royal British Legion in order to help them help the thousands of service personnel and especially the recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. Did you know that the Legion currently spends more than £1M a week in its work helping over 130,000 members of the Armed Forces family, the dependants, the veterans and the bereaved. Last year’s collection totalled £31M.
We all pray for the time when conflict will end. Never stop praying. Never stop caring about what these men and women have taken on for us and let’s make sure that when they return they find a welcome in our town and we do not forget Mr Smith who lives down the street.
For their sake, wear a poppy
Tommy Whistler perches on his step,
The sharp night air whipping through his ragged soul,
Clutched to his glowing cigarette,
Tears crawling down his unshaven cheeks, who knows?
1917 Tommy Whistler,
Eyes and Cheeks ablaze with pride, clutched to his gun,
Salutes to his sergeant starts to march,
He’ll be a hero, that is what is to come.
Tommy Whistler lying spread eagled,
A fallen boy lost in gunfire and hatred,
Heat scorching his nerves, white pain teasing
Sanity out from the creases of his mind.
Bullets flying like a swarm of bees,
Raindrop bombs showering the landscape, Tommy,
Wide eyed at the thick guttering mess,
The suffocating scene of despair, helpless,
Tommy Whistler lying wrapped in sheets,
His soft cheek bones feathered with bruises, peaceful,
As nurses tend with shrouded doubt, he
Burns beneath the serene mask, mind dancing away,
Tommy Whistler sinking to his knees,
Crumpling like a wet paper bag, unwanted,
People pass with polite disdain,
He’s a drunk, mad, evil, never a hero,
Tommy Whistler gazing at heaven,
Shreds of pin-prick stars shine down at him, mocking,
Tonight Tommy Whistler will die, soon,
But he’ll die an unsung hero, until now
Rupert Brooke, The Soldier (1914)
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Member since: 9th July 2012
Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.