Huge turnout for Basingstoke’s Armistice Centenary commemorations
The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Cllr Seán Keating led the wreath-laying at the special commemoration on Sunday 11 November, which this year marked 100 years of the First World War armistice signed between the Allies and Germany for the cessation of hostilities.
Two men dressed in authentic First World War battle uniform – one British and the other a French uniform worn by soldiers from Basingstoke’s twin town Alençon - flanked the 1923 war memorial, which has been restored to its former glory by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council in time for the commemorations.
Descendants of some of the First World War servicemen whose names are immortalised on borough war memorials were present to remember their loved ones and people of all ages turned out to pay their respects to those who served and sacrificed their lives during past conflicts.
The Mayor’s chaplain Deacon Patrick O’Connell said: “Peace is a precious commodity that comes from trust, tolerance and faith.” He prayed for the brave servicemen and women and for lasting peace.
After the Last Post, the Exhortation was given by Wing Commander Steven Bell from RAF Odiham, followed by two minutes’ silence at 11am.
Basingstoke’s MP Maria Miller gave a reading of ‘A Time For Everything’ and there was applause from the crowd following a performance of ‘It’s A Long way to Tipperary’ by the Ooh Mama Choir and St Anne’s Catholic Primary School Choir. A flypast by a RAF Chinook helicopter took place during the laying of poppy wreaths at the war memorial.
Wreaths were also laid by the Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire Tom Floyd, Mrs Miller, Wing Commander Bell, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Chief Executive Mel Barrett, Royal British Legion Basingstoke and Overton branch President David Buttle, Prince of Wales Royal Regiment Colour Sergeant Graham Woolcock and many others, including representatives from other armed forces, police, fire service and other local associations, schools and organisations.
The Mayor took the salute from the Remembrance Day parade afterwards, then joined the some of the First World War servicemen’s families at a reception where they were presented with miniature ‘Tommy’ figures engraved with the names of their loved ones.
“It meant so much to be at the service and to remember family members who served in the First World War,” said one of the descendants.
Mayor Cllr Seán Keating said: “It was a huge privilege and pleasure to mark this year’s special Remembrance Day service in Basingstoke alongside representatives of local services and organisations and to see so many members of the public taking part.
“The centenary of the 1918 Armistice was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by local people who lived through and fought in the First World War – and gave us a time to reflect about those who lost their lives at such a young age.
“It was so reassuring to see the borough’s great community spirit on display at the service and to meet the descendants of First World War servicemen – through them, their memories live on.”
Commemorative wartime family arts activities, held in Basingstoke town centre after the event, attracted an additional 1,000 people and included poppy making with Louise Hight and entertainment by Scratchbuilt Productions.
A list of those named on the war memorials around the borough can be downloaded from the council website at https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/ww1