WE WILL remember the fallen – that was the clear and simple message during a series of events held across Basingstoke and Deane this week as the people of the borough and nation marked 100 years since the start of the First World War.
On Monday, it was exactly 100 years since the then Foreign Secretary Edward Grey announced that Britain was in a state of war with Germany, saying: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.
And in a mark of respect and remembrance on Monday, lights across Basingstoke and Deane went out for an hour at 10pm as residents and businesses took part in the nationwide “Lights Out” event, keeping one light illuminated to remember those who lost their lives during the First World War. Street lights across Hampshire were also dimmed to honour the fallen.
Last Sunday evening, a service featuring hymns and readings was followed by a candlelit vigil at All Saints’ Church, in Southern Road, Basingstoke.
Stones were placed around a single candle as a mark of respect for the 229 men from Basingstoke who lost their lives in the conflict, and the candle was then extinguished at 11pm.
On Monday, more than 250 people, including relatives of the men from Basingstoke who died during the First World War, attended a civic service of commemoration in St Michael’s Church, in Basingstoke.
Descendants of the 229 men killed during the war between 1914 and 1918 paid their respects to their fallen relatives by laying floral tributes in the memorial chapel at the church, which was built in 1919 to honour those who lost their lives during the conflict.
Hymns were sung and the congregation heard readings, including from Basingstoke residents Mick Smith and Gerald Fitzgerald, who both lost relatives during the war, Corporal Samuel Thompson, from the 443 Squadron Air Training Corps, and North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot.
The Reverend Canon Jo Stoker, who led the service, told the gathering: “We are marking the anniversary of an important moment.
“It is time to recollect all those who served and died, and as we come together in sorrow, it is time to seek God’s wisdom and peace in our world.”
Councillor Roger Gardiner, Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, told The Gazette: “It was a lovely service and Jo Stoker did a wonderful job in putting it together.
“When I saw the descendants in the war memorial chapel, some of them were in tears because they were so moved by the ceremony.
“Events across Basingstoke were from the heart, and whatever we did, we did it well.
“It is such an important day in our history.”