Following Armistice Day we commemorate Remembrance Day and this year I spent it in Tewkesbury. Last year I had not been able to be at the War Memorial in person, but this year I did.
The service is held at the Abbey, and then everybody moves to the War Memorial at the major crossroads in town. I did not attend the Abbey service, but waited till it ended, taking photographs in and around the graveyard while I waited. There is a very poignant memorial to Major James Cartland who was killed on 27 May 1918 and it has been the focus of the Somme 100 commemorations.
While I was taking these images the service ended and the people started to leave the Abbey
I changed position to where the parade would be marching out from, and it was a long parade too.
Apart from the military there are a number of civilian groups in the parade, including military veterans, emergency service, scouts, school groups, and all shapes and sizes and colours and creeds. The problem is that by the time the front of the parade has reached the memorial the rear hasn’t left yet.
The area around the memorial is in the shape of a Y standing slightly skew, with the memorial in the centre on a small island. The through roads had been blocked off and just as well as the small area around the memorial was packed.
I ended up close to the memorial, but nowhere close enough to see the base of it. I am sure that most of the town was there, and it is not a large town. The one thing I have seen in the UK is that people take the period around Remembrance Day seriously.
It is hard to know how children process the events, certainly those in the parade must have known a bit about why they were there, and I am sure that some must have family connected to the armed forces. I do not think I ever attended one when I was young in South Africa, but I am sure my father did. It does not really matter though, what is important is that we were here with a common purpose. I dusted off my beret for the occasion, and was probably the only Bokkop in town.
Unfortunately the low angle of the sun and the surrounding buildings cast dark shadows over the parade, but at least there was sun, sort of…
And then the last post was played and there was 2 minutes of silence. The two minutes of silence originates in Cape Town; one minute was a time of thanksgiving for those who had returned alive, the second minute was to remember the fallen. Before the period of silence a bugler plays the Last Post and Reveille signals the end of the silence. It is a very moving moment, and the only noise was the occasional small child who may have been puzzled by the cessation of hubbub around them.
And then we reaffirmed our commitment to the fallen and those who survived:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.
And then it was over, the parade marched out from around the memorial to form up once again.
and the memorial was once more visible.
The parade then marched past the memorial, presenting their salutes and under the command “eyes right”. I would hope that those who marched past today will one day stand where I was and watch servicemen and women from the future march past too.
and while the front of the column was smartly turned out, things became slightly more ragged as we reached the back.
But, if amongst those kids just one takes this parade to heart and becomes a greater part of Remembrance then I acknowledge their salute.
I took a short walk down the road to check out a building, and when I returned to the area of the memorial things were almost back to normal with traffic restored and families were heading home and people in uniform going wherever they went after a parade like this.
The poppies will slowly disappear from the shops and clothing, although some of us will keep them visible for much longer. The wreaths will fade and and the red dye will run in the rain, frost will cover the memorial and once again clouds of exhaust fumes will envelop it. I always thought it was a stupid place to put a war memorial, but if you really think about it, everybody that drives past here has to see it, and maybe that is a good thing after all.
The Military Vehicles really interested me because of my own time in the military and of course a general interest in things military. As mentioned, most of the equipment on display was of American origin, with a smattering of other nationals equipment.
The tracked vehicles really stole the show, and one vehicle in particular was really impressive. I had never seen (or heard of) a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer before, but be rest assured I know about them now!
This vehicle would show its paces in the arena a bit later and it was astounding! Capable of 80 km/h they could probably run rings around most tanks on level ground. The 76mm was not the perfect weapon, but in the hands of a skilled crew could cause havoc.
Tank number 2 was not American, but rather a PzKpfw 38(t) from 1943, originally built by Skoda of Czechoslovakia. This vehicle is currently under preservation and this was probably the first time it has been under it’s own power in 60 years.
She was not much to see in the arena though, and I suspect the Hellcat would have run rings around it.
The next tracked vehicle of interest was what I think is an LVT (Landing Vehicle tracked), also known as an “Amtrak”. She too was fast, and really churned up the grass behind her.
The other interesting tracked vehicle my guide identifies as an Alvis 432, and it is a British Army AFV
Of course there were two American half tracks on the move and they too were quick on their feet, wheels and tracks… My personal favourite was there too, with its quad 50 cal Brownings.
It is however quite strange in that the transmission included a preselector gearbox and that gave five speeds in both directions, it was also fitted with a four-wheel steering system and had a tight turning circle of 7.0 m. Personally I find it confusing as to which end is the front (the image above shows the rear of the vehicle).
The closest equivalent at the fair was probably the ubiquitous Jeep of which there were many variants on display. My personal favourite mounted a 50 cal Browning, but then you can cure many things with a 50 cal.
Standing out amongst the drab was an SAS Land Rover long range desert patrol vehicle from 1968. Known as “Pinkies” for their Mountbatten Pink camo, this particular vehicle saw service in Oman in with the SAS from 1969-1974.
Now compare that to this overloaded mountain of kit on wheels.
I missed the information sheet for this one, but the entry number lists it as Land Rover Dinkie from 1986. Judging by the amount of kit it is festooned with it is probably a modern equivalent of the Pinkie. Somewhere in there is the driver and passenger.
There was another nice vehicle on display that I really liked, but unfortunately I am unable to identify it as I cannot see it’s entrant number
Number 96 was an Austin Tourer from 1929, and I suspect this must have been used as a military runabout inside a base. I can’t quite picture it in the heat of battle. It is however a wonderful little vehicle.
As mentioned before, there were a lot of Jeeps on display, and this fitted in very well with my interest in trains.
The vehicle carrying the drain pipe originated in Sweden and is a Volvo TGB IIII, and the drainpipe with its elevating mechanism is seen in the stowed position, there is even a cutout for the weapon in the windscreen.
The weapon is a 90mm recoilless rifle, although I doubt whether this is the the real thing and is probably a replica. I hope the whole package was more reliable than the 106mm recoilless rifles we had in the SADF that were mounted on Jeeps.
Number 97 is a GMC 353, also known as a “Deuce and a half”.
There are many variations of this truck, and a number were on display at the fair. Workhorses like these are what kept the Allies supplied in the Second World War, and many would be very useful in the post war economies of Europe and America.
The oldie below with the twin Bren mount is a Humber 1 ton cargo pickup, and was originally an ex RME signals repair truck.
In the background is a flatnose Bedford which I also encountered in the South African Defence Force in 1 SAI in Bloemfontein.
That more or less covers the more memorable vehicles in the military equipment line up, although I am going to add many more into the Random Pics gallery below. Where I can identify a vehicle I will add in the description. According to the programme there were theoretically 113 military vehicles there. No wonder I came away with so many pics.