Remembrance Day Hackney: Community comes together for ‘deeply emotional’ centenary service
- Credit: Adam Holt
Members of all faiths and none coalesced as one Hackney community to mark the centenary of the First World War armistice on Sunday. Veterans, politicians and camouflage-clad soldiers congregated at the Town Hall, before marching to St John at Hackney Church, where wreaths were laid at the memorial.
And then, exactly 100 years after peace was declared, an interfaith service commemorated the supreme sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians during the First World War.
Reginald Wright, 80, was born in Hackney and served in the Royal Army Ordinance Core. He hailed the borough’s “brilliant remembrance service”.
Reginald said: “I’m what’s known as a nuclear vet. I was on Christmas Island in 1957 - I saw three H bombs and 3 A bombs, it was unbelievable.
“I was on the laundry out there. It was 99 degrees in shade and I worked on the steam press.
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“We all had to dress in white and when it you had to put your hands over your eyes. The blast was so bright you could see the bones in your hands.”
Bill Parr, of the 1st Battalion on the Royal Highland Regiment, originally from Tottenham, served two campaigns in Korea and the Canal Zone.
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After marching back to the town hall, he told the Gazette: “It really was a poignant service.
“I keep my cross on all times and never put it down because it’s had the names of four good friends of mine on it.
“They sadly lost their lives in Korea at the Battle of the Hook. They were just 18 and 19 years old.
“Remembrance makes me feel good because it’s flashes back a lot of memories of friends who died fighting.”
Rev Al Gordon, Rector of Hackney, was among the faith leaders who spoke at the ceremony.
He later told the Gazette: “I think today was hugely poignant. My great grandfather fought in the great war, and inscribed a book he wrote to me, which said ‘I paid a great price for your freedom, guard it well.
“So for me today was hopeful because it brings together all the different parts of Hackney to leave their differences aside and honour the past so that we can build a bright future.”
Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, who also spoke at the remembrance ceremony, added: “It’s deeply emotional, very personal to think that young men have their lives to enable us to live in freedom and to live in a prosperous loving nation.”
The Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, was also moved by the service, and, in particular, the humanist sermon.
He said: “People often talk about sacrifice and contribution but those with no faith were sacrificing what they thought to be their only life, which I find hugely poignant.
“Yesterday I was at the Mildmay Club in Newington Green. Hackney had its own pals brigade and they all joined up together.
“Out of 30 who went only six came back.
“That’s what I was remembering today, people who served from around the borough and their stories.”