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Lest we forget: Centenary Service in Canterbury

PUBLISHED: 10:25 07 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 August 2018

This poignant bronze statue of a World War One soldier with his eyes and footsteps directed towards Canterbury Cathedral is based on the portrait of The Man Of Kent by military artist Lady Butler (photo: Manu Palomeque)

This poignant bronze statue of a World War One soldier with his eyes and footsteps directed towards Canterbury Cathedral is based on the portrait of The Man Of Kent by military artist Lady Butler (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

An ambitious open-air First World War Centenary service this September hopes to see 4,000 Kent residents in attendance

From 2014 to 2018 nations, communities and individuals of all ages have come together to remember the lives of all those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.

In November 2018 Kent will be bringing to a close four years of commemorations both at home and abroad. Many events, including Services of Remembrance on Sunday 11 November, will be held across the county to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice.

Most certainly the largest will be a drumhead service, a service in the open air, as on the battlefield, in which an arrangement of drums by parading soldiers becomes the centre of a religious service.

The Kent First World War Centenary Service at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, on Sunday 23 September will be a precursor to the commemorations that will happen in cathedrals, parish churches and at war memorials throughout Kent two months later.

I am at Canterbury Cathedral hearing all about this ambitious, multi-cultural, multi-faith project from the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Robert Willis DL and fellow Deputy Lieutenant Richard Oldfield, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent.

They are leading the project from a faith and logistics perspective respectively, backed by a veritable army of support from the Kent Lieutenancy, with help from 11 Brigade, together with many other DLs and representatives of leading organisations.

The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (3PWRR) is playing a key role in organising the Parade, and sponsorship is being given by Kent Community Foundation and Shepherd Neame.

The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Robert Willis, DL and Richard Oldfield, DL and Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent, beside the monument created by Peter Birkett (photo: Manu Palomeque)The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Reverend Robert Willis, DL and Richard Oldfield, DL and Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent, beside the monument created by Peter Birkett (photo: Manu Palomeque)

“The service will have a special significance in two ways,” explains Richard. “First, it will be the only way in which Kent as a whole will mark the centenary of the ending of the First World War and the contribution of the men and women of Kent, especially those in the armed services.

“The service has the authority of the Lord Lieutenant of Kent as representative of Her Majesty The Queen and so has a unique county wide status among the many other services which will take place during the final months of 2018 to mark this centenary.

“We intend that The Centenary Service will open the period of build-up to the armistice services around the county on 11 November, itself the 100th anniversary of the end of the War, and that as a result there will be unprecedented attendance at those services.

“Secondly, there will be nothing like it again. The First World War, remembered every year since its end, has a particular poignancy, because it was the unnecessary result of a series of incidents and alliances, because it was expected to be ‘over by Christmas,’ because so many died, and because it was supposed to be the war to end all wars and it was not.

“After 2018, it will lose something of this poignancy and will not be recalled again in quite the same way. This is the final chance Kent will have to pay a very special tribute, and to provide a lasting memory to all who attend and read about the service.

“It is also a chance to look forward, and to be grateful for what the military do for us all, and for the solidarity of Kent and of the country.”

The Dean adds: “Now, a century on we look at what the 20th and early 21st centuries were like and how, in 2018, humanity’s common cry for peace has never been so powerful.”

Kent men and women played a critical role in the conflict and on the home front. Those whose names are inscribed on our memorials gave their lives. Thousands of our armed forces travelled through Kent on their way to the Western Front.

For many, Kent – especially Dover and Folkestone – would be their last sight of home and for the wounded and survivors, Kent was often their first comforting sight of home after the horrors of war.

In November 1920, the body of the Unknown Warrior, now buried in Westminster Abbey, returned home through Dover. In this centenary year, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, The Viscount De L’Isle MBE, wants to honour those who served in the First World War, as well as veterans from other conflicts since 1914-18.

His wish is also to acknowledge the huge contribution made today by our armed services, emergency and volunteer services; and to look ahead by recognising the huge potential of our cadets and all young people.

“I wanted an event that would accommodate as many citizens of Kent as possible in the firm belief that they would be pleased and proud to attend,” said The Lord-Lieutenant.

And with that thought in mind, it is anticipated that more than 4,000 people will attend the Centenary Service which will be led by the Dean of Canterbury.

There will be pre-service entertainment in the form of First World War songs – expect Tipperary, Keep the home fires burning, etc – sung by the choirs of Canterbury Cathedral and also the Shorncliffe & Brompton Military Wives Choir. The Salvation Army band will play. Michael Bax, DL is commentating throughout.

There will be a parade at the start of the service led by the 3rd Battalion, Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. Other units – air and sea cadets, veterans, scouts and guides – will march into position before the service, which will be led by the Dean of Canterbury, who will also preach. There will be multi-faith participation in the readings and prayers. The retiring collection is for Combat Stress.

All regular Service Units – Royal Navy, Army and RAF - in Kent will be invited, as will Reserve Forces, Veterans and representatives of organisations in Kent who supported our Forces throughout the conflict. These include the Land Army, Women’s Institute, Church Army, The Salvation Army and others.

“I believe this Centenary Service will be a truly memorable occasion for all those involved, and a fitting way for our county to mark this final year of commemoration.

“It will express our profound gratitude to all those from Kent who gave so much in conflict and everyone who gives so much in military and civilian service today,” said The Lord-Lieutenant.

Find out more

When: The Centenary Service takes place on Sunday 23 September. Musical performances from 1pm, parades from 2.15pm, the Service starts at 3pm

Where: The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Old Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3NZ

Tickets: All Kent residents can apply for tickets, which are free of charge – but you have to register to attend, you can’t just turn up: www.kent-lieutenancy.org.uk

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