Armistice Day 2018 with the WI – Battleaxe takes part

Sunday was Armistice Day 2018 – the 11th day of the 11th month, exactly 100 years after the end of WW1.  A significant and poignant anniversary.  The country was flooded in a red poppy tide, and in a small way, our WI was part of it.

Hastings Ore WI wreath. Poppies from the members, wreath made by Jan

Many WI groups did much more than us. As Editor of WI News I have been inundated with photographs of hand-made poppy installations. Our neighbour, Pett WI, worked with their village community to make the most amazing displays. However, our group has a distributed town-based membership across Hastings and St Leonard’s – it is more difficult to identify a focus.
If we have such a focus, it is around Ore. We meet in the parish church hall, and our bazaars, jumble sales etc are directed at the local community – which includes some of the most deprived neighburhoods in the country, never mind Hastings. Our most successful campaigning event – saving the Ore public toilets, was local.
I am part of the Church Transformation Group – hopefully progressing the necessary modifications to the church building and the halls to open them up for community use. It’s a nice old Victorian church – see earlier post about Ore Village. Here is my photograph of the War Memorial from that post. Goodness, that was October 2014…

Ore War Memorial from 2014 Battleaxe post
[A quick note on Battleaxe and religion. I am, in theory, a full, confirmed member of the Church of England. I had a very traditional upbringing including boarding school where we walked in a crocodile to church, wearing stiff blue tweed suits and felt hats in the winter, and Liberty floral ‘glory’ dresses with straw hats and white gloves in the summer. We were packed off to the Vicar for confirmation classes as soon as signs of puberty appeared. Aged about 17 I finally ceased to believe because God, for no good reason I could see, declined to do anything to improve my spots despite constant prayers and donations to the poor. It sounds stupid but believe me those spots were awful and it was not as though it was a big deal. They would have got better anyway in time and I wasn’t exactly asking for world peace….
If Battleaxe succumbs to religious urges in old age, and I know plenty of people do, it would have to be traditional High Anglican – Book of Common Prayer, Hymns A & M, King James Bible. I like beautiful words, stirring tunes, dignity, ceremony and plenty of mystical distance… bring on those thuribles and chasubles. Our local Christ Church Ore is evangelical in approach….. ] So, anyway, us WI women decided to make a wreath and lay it at the Ore Churches Together service and ceremony at the War Memorial in Ore. Our members knitted the poppies, and the really lovely wreath was made up by friend Jan…. She said she did not want to lay her beautful handiwork herself  because she would get too emotional, but I guess it is a Presidenty thing to do anyway.  Many of our WI members came to the church and Philosopher took photographs.

       First thing, I don’t have a long black overcoat in my vast wardrobe, so after much deliberation had to make do with brown, but it was at least sober and suitably long. On that theme, let’s digress for a moment again…. to Jeremy Corbyn. He has been subject of an internet storm because he chose to lay his wreath at the Cenotaph wearing an anorak. Well Jezza, why couldn’t you just blend in? Why do you want people wasting time arguing about your wardrobe choices? If I was laying a wreath at the Cenotaph I’d think hmm, all the others will be wearing black overcoats, so I will, too. Why is it so hard? You are not there to make personal statements.
Urgh, do get back to the point. The church service was actually very good. Very simple, lots of praying for peace. Hymns were a bit modern for my taste – strangely, one was sung to the tune of the Dambusters March – an odd choice for a service all about peace… and two I didn’t know at all. Modern hymns are very lovey-dovey and fluffy kittens – I like being stirred to the bone-marrow… However, to my relief, there was Jerusalem, which pleased the WI ladies, and Guide me O thou Great Redeemer sung outside with the Salvation Army band. My favourite Remembrance Day hymn is ‘O Valiant Hearts’, but no chance of that…
Lots of children in their cub and scout uniforms with their standards…

      Then, we went outside and the wreath layers all assembled round the War Memorial. I was next to our two local Councillors, Andrew and Heather, and our (Tory) County Councillor, Laurie Loe. Fortunately the rain held off. It looked very threatening indeed, but I firmly told myself that if it did rain, I would stand there and get wet. The Salvation Army played the Last Post, and we had the silence.
I tried not to think too much about why we were there. I just tried to remember all those who died in WW1, and to think of our wreath as a mark of respect, a simple act of remembrance. If one started thinking about, for example, the current state of the world, how religion has so often been the cause of war, and the way our country persistently sells arms abroad, one would not be at all in the right frame of mind.

     It felt an honour to lay the wreath on behalf of the WI.

Some of us  WI women – Very threatening weather.

After, we went for tea and cake in the hall.
Later, Philosopher and I watched some Remembrance events on telly. Westminster Abbey, lit beacons etc.The most moving thing I saw was the ceremony from the Menin Gate in Ypres, with a lone piper playing a lament as showers of poppies fell from the ceiling… Unfortunately I can’t find a photo from the internet, but here is the Last Post….

     Am feeling a little oppressed at the moment because tonight is the WI AGM, and on Saturday it is our Bazaar…. eesh, so much work….


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