Proud to be involved in Littlehampton’s remembrance beacon lighting

As the nation focussed its thoughts and efforts on the act of remembrance, with this year being particularly poignant being the centenary of the end of the First World War, I was pleased to see how much effort our own town had also put into marking this occasion.

I started on Tuesday evening by being invited to the Girlguiding centre in Duke Street, for the lighting of the giant poppy which had been made by more than 350 children at the Look and Sea Centre before its closure.

The Littlehampton Sea Cadets performing on the Stage by the Sea at the beacon lighting

The Littlehampton Sea Cadets performing on the Stage by the Sea at the beacon lighting

| Read more – Southwick ‘does community proud’ as more than 1,000 attend Remembrance event; Remembrance Sunday: huge crowds in Littlehampton honour soldiers on Armistice centenary; Worthing Remembrance Sunday Service: thousands pay their respects to the soldiers of the First World War |

Made from shaped and coloured plastic bottles this was certainly a wonderful sight and it was an honour to be asked to press the button to light it up.

Rachel Stanford was instrumental in not only the concept and production of this but also with the passion for wanting to make sure this was seen and rushed to ensure it had a new home, so I thank the Guides for providing this.

In the evening, money was being raised through tombolas and a raffle which will be split between the Guides and the Royal British Legion. Littlehampton Welding also donated a metal Tommy soldier to be displayed at the Girlguiding hall.

Mayor of Littlehampton Billy Blanchard-Cooper at the beacon lighting

Mayor of Littlehampton Billy Blanchard-Cooper at the beacon lighting

Later in the week it was great to see the poppy acknowledged further, making an appearance on ITV’s This Morning show. Well done everyone involved in this.

Later in the week I spent some time looking around the Littlehampton Museum at the ‘When I have done my bit’ exhibition which is part of the nationwide commemoration of the end of the First World War. The display explores how the people of Littlehampton fared in the final years of the war, the struggles they faced and the changes all around them.

It also looks at Armistice Day, what happened in the streets when peace was declared, and how the town chose to honour the fallen.

I thought this was a wonderful display and incredibly thought provoking and I highly recommend popping in to have a look.

As always the museum is completely free of charge and this exhibition continues to run until December 21.

Along with other invited guests, I attended the unveiling of the new memorial at the entrance to the Kingley Gate estate to the north of the Littlehampton bypass.

It was an honour to be asked to jointly unveil this memorial along with Stanley Northeast, a Second World War D-Day veteran and father to fellow councillor Mike Northeast, who has been instrumental in the instigation of this project to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The project was co-produced by developers Barratt Homes, who reused original flint work from the former dovecote that stood on this site to build the surrounding wall, and engraved standing and floor stones featuring names of the fallen and images of poppies supplied by Mark Butler of Marks of Respect.

Come Saturday afternoon I had been invited to join the Edwin James Festival Choir and Orchestra for its A Time for Remembrance concert at St James the Great Church.

The programme included a selection of war time favourites for the audience to sing along with such as Pack Up Your Troubles, Here We Are Again, Bless ‘em All and Goodbye-ee!.

With the choir and orchestra as always impressing with various war themed performances, the first half closed with Ivor Novello’s Keep The Home Fires Burning and the second half opened with a medley of Music from the Trenches.

The evening, which was interspersed with poetry read by members of the choir, was preceeded by a presentation of standards of the Royal British Legion, Sussex Army Cadet Force and the Littlehampton Armed Forces and Veterans Club and saw the congregation mark a two-minute silence following the Last Post.

The evening was enhanced by a collection of First World War artefacts being displayed around the church courtesy of Constructive Heritage as a small part of its personal collection.

This concert was raising funds for Chestnut Tree House, St Barnabas House, St Wilfrid’s Hospice and the Royal British Legion.

The choir’s next event will be a coffee morning in aid of Children in Need at St James Church Hall on Friday from 10.30am until midday.

Pride, that one word simply summed up how I felt about our town on Sunday when all came together to pay tribute to those who fell so we could be free, by joining the parade through the town centre to the war memorial for the annual service and wreath laying.

The spirit and emotion was immense as all gathered around the cenotaph, particularly during the two-minute silence paying respect to the bravery of our service men and women.

This was followed by a truly amazing service by the Rev Martin Seymour at St Mary’s Church, who gave true meaning and reflection to the day. With the clear silhouettes of soldiers seated throughout the congregation and the installation of the poppy cascade at the front of the church, the symbolism of remembrance was truly captured.

On Sunday evening, despite the rain, hundreds attended the beacon lighting at the Stage by the Sea.

I was proud to take part in this very special national historic event to commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War, and to recognise the contribution and sacrifice made by the men and women from our own community.

The lighting of the beacon is a rare occurrence, with Littlehampton being part of a chain of more than 1,000 beacons being lit at 7pm that night symbolising the end to the darkness of war and a return to the light of peace.

Events were taking place throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and at scores of locations overseas, including New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Bermuda, France. Belgium, Canada, the United States and Germany.

Prior to the lighting there was a performance from the Littlehampton Sea Cadets, the Rev Martin Seymour read the Tribute to the Millions before local Scouts and Cadets took to the stage to read the names of the fallen before the Last Post was played.

Working against the strong winds and rain we were still able, with some encouragement, to get the beacon alight at 7pm.

I would like to say well done to all who took part by organising, parading, attending, or simply by taking time to let your thoughts be with those we have lost.

Billy at the beacon lighting


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