St Michael (Church)

Published on November 11th, 2018 | by Content Admin

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Talk at Village Remembrance Service

One hundred years ago the Armistice came into effect and peace broke out on the Western Front.  11 o’clock on the 11th day of November 1918. The bells will ring out here in the village and across the land today in commemoration.

What a relief it must have been in the village where nearly every household would have had men away in Flanders, France and elsewhere.

The Great War has been the focus of national Remembrance this year – although for many it is a distant past and we have lost tangible links.

World War 2 – for those those involved, families and friends, is still tangible just as are other wars and conflicts during the last 70 years –  Palestine, Korea, Suez, Malaya, The Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq, The Balkans, Afghanistan and Syria. The men and women who died in these conflicts are also remembered today though we put our focus this morning on World War 1.

That terrifying and grueling war touched every community in the UK and across the Empire. Families lost loved ones – sons, fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles on the battlefields, in the field hospitals; in the trenches, in the mud, amongst the poppies – often, but not always, in the care of their pals, their mates, or if lucky in the care of our amazing nurses.

It is the Aynho men that we remember today – the 14 men listed on our Village Memorial where we will go together for the Act of Remembrance at 11 o’clock.

Our men, the unlucky 14, who didn’t come back from the Great War – the men who gave their lives for “King and Country”.

Our men, who to a man, have no marked grave in Flanders or France but are listed on the British and Commonwealth memorials near to where they died alongside their mates.

We have remembered each of these men this past fortnight and talked of their lives here in the village:  who were their families, where did they live, what did they do, and who they left behind.

We have imagined the sense of loss in the community, in our streets, in our cottages.

Each man remembered as an individual – as important as the next – each one with his own story.

And we can understand those stories in the context of what we have seen on our television screens in Remembrance this week – moving scenes from across the country – old men and old women now, but still with their enduring young children’s memories of fathers gone and lost, young love stopped in its tracks, mothers not reconciled to their sons buried in foreign lands – the enduring life of pain for many – physical and mental.

All this reflected in Aynho. We are no different to any other part of the country.

We have remembered:

Albert and Reginald Wrighton – two brothers

Alfred and Clement Wrighton – two brothers, and first cousins to Albert

Edward Savings – a father of eight young children – the last just 4 months old when Edward was killed

Arthur Colley – the youngest of 7 children of Elias and Caroline Colley

Arthur Woolnough – newly married – the son of the estate steward

Albert Stewart – a young man from outside the village who joined up with his mates that he worked and lived with here

Joseph Williams – who had recently moved to Canada and died with Canadian friends

John and Nigel Cartwright – two brothers – the sons of the Rector; John was the first man killed from the village in the summer of 1915, Nigel just two years later

William Cross – he had moved to the village because his sister was married to Alfred Wrighton; he went to war with his mates, the Wrightons

Edward Seccull – killed at Paschandaele and part of the family , who over the centuries, had, as stonemasons, left their mark on this Church, Aynhoe Park, the Almshouses and loads of the village walls.

And Wallace Williams – aged 19 – who was the youngest and last of our men to be killed in 1918 when Ludendorff made his last desperate attempt to break through the British line.

These men we have remembered.

They will have all known each other in this small village of ours – a tight knit community of close proximity – 500 people in the old part of the village

– there are just more than 600 today with all the new houses built in the last 70 years.

Cottages full to the brim – think Edward Savings 8 children; Alfred and Clement Wrighton’s family of 10 children, and Arthur Colley’s 6 siblings just as examples.

They were neighbours; they worked together in the fields, on the railways, for the Cartwrights in the big house;

they went to school together – played, mucked about, had fun and got into trouble together.

They came to this church together for worship, for ceremony, for community.

And they joined up together. They went to war together.

Their death in this brutal and seemingly unending war was announced in the form of telegrams and notices – the dreaded knock on the door – the awful process of the post man making his way to one door or another.

The Rector and his wife were the first to receive that awful knock – just next door – John Cartwright killed in 1915 two months after getting to the Western Front.

Then in 1916 on the far side of the village on the Charlton Road:

William Cross 3 July , third day of the Somme, 17 August Alfred Wrighton, 19 August Clement Wrighton his brother, and 24 August Albert Stewart.

Minnie Wrighton, Alfred’s wife, lost a husband, a brother and a brother in law in the space of 6 weeks. Hard to imagine, but we know across the land these things, these terrible things were happening.

And still men went to enlist – in the village’s case Edward Savings, neighbour of the Wrightons and Minnie,  father of eight, aged 38, with one lung, applied and enlisted a few weeks later, dying in early 1917.

There was no differentiation here – men were killed from Charlton Road, The Square, Butts Close, The Rectory here, Friars Well, and Home Farm just next to where the Village Hall is now.

And of course there were the other 60 or more men who fought for us, came back during 1919 after the Armistice, wounded, or recently recovered from wounds, physically and mentally changed – they lived in all the other cottages and farms, the station, the brickyard – and tried to get on with their lives – lives which had changed for them and which rightly had changed for their wives, mothers, sisters too.

The national archives show us what is was like, the TV programmes have brought it back to life again, and Peter Jackson’s film this evening on the BBC will cause us to reflect more about our men – the 14 on our Memorial and their families – all very, very  deserving of our focus and of our commemoration today.

What more can we say than, in the recognition of all that happened here – we, like the generations before us, can have our day and our good times because of their sacrifice, their loss, and what it meant in their families in our community.

We will remember them.

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