August Last Post

We started our ceremony today with the sad news that our previous Chairman, Mr Malcom Head had passed away this morning. Malcolm was Chair of the BLP during its most challenging period. The most recent ceremony that he attended was the July Last Post last month. Without his vision and drive, the Brookwood Last Post would not have survived and would now be consigned to history. We will miss him terribly.

Mr David Plattern, Chairman of Surrey County RBL, Mr Tom Milne and Mr Malcolm Head at the September 2017 Brookwood Last Post.
Mr David Plattern, Chairman of Surrey County RBL, Mr Tom Milne and Mr Malcolm Head at the September 2017 Brookwood Last Post.

Today we held a multi faith ceremony remembering those Commonwealth soldiers killed in all wars from across the faith spectrum.

We had representatives from the Bahá’í, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths all of whom held a prayer.

We remembered Private James Henry Sitch, service number G/45373 who is buried in plot XIII, grave C.8A at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Private Sitch died 100 years ago on Monday, 5th August 1918, his age isn’t listed, nor his address, but the fact that he was in the Royal West Surreys suggests that he was a local man, albeit he had transferred to the Labour Corps by the time of his death.

We read out the poem ‘The Crosses’ by Bill Mitton.

At the end of the ceremony, our Chairman, Kevin Davis and Woking Mayor, Cllr Will Forster inspected the Standards on parade.

We had four Standards on parade, and our Standard Bearer today was Mrs Sue Stallard. We had fewer Standards today as some members are attending the Great Pilgrimage 90 Parade in Belgium.

Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, our Reverend was Mr Rob Bennett, and additional speakers were John Kingsbury and Paul McCue. Afterwards we went round to the Trench Experience for refreshments.

July Last Post

The hot temperatures today didn’t stop Beavers, Cubs and Scouts turning out from Woking District for the July edition of the Brookwood Last Post.

Sounding of The Last Post
Sounding of The Last Post

We had nine Standards on parade, five from the Scouts with Mrs Sue Stallard parading the BLP Standard.

Silence
Silence

We remembered Brookwood resident Wilfred Bolingbroke. Wilfred was the son of Alfred. He lived at The Homestead – now 142 Connaught Road. He enlisted in Bisley, joining the third battalion of the Tank Corps (formerly the Machine Gun Corps). He served as a private in Flanders and France. It is highly likely that he was part of the Battle of Cambrai-St. Quentin (27th September – 9th October 1918). This was the main British contribution to the attack on the Hindenburg line and succeeded in pushing back the Germans to the River Selle.

The war was to last just one month more, but sadly Wilfred was killed in action on 8th October 1918, aged just 22 years. He is buried in the Busigny Cemetery in Northern France.

Although we performed the long ceremony, we substituted the second hymn with the poem ‘The Life of a Soldier’ by Jodi M. Kucera.

Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore and our Padre was Bert Steed.

Afterwards we had some refreshments round at The Trench Experience.

June Last Post

Today in the nice sunshine, we welcomed members of Woking District Scouts for our short ceremony. The Scouts are planning to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate on 10 November 2018 and form up as part of the Poppy Parade on the 11 November through Ypres. As part of this, Scouts are attending our ceremony to gain experience with parading Standards. We are very pleased to see them with us.

We had 10 Standards on parade today with six of them from the Scouts.

We remembered Flying Officer Ronald Charles Wood, 12251. A flying instructor with 20 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit, based at RAF Kidlington, F/O Wood was killed when the Airspeed Oxford in which he was flying collided in mid-air with a similar aircraft of the same unit on 3rd June 1943 – exactly 75 years ago. Both aircraft, on night flying exercises, crashed and five men died.

F/O Wood was the son of Alfred and Alice Mary Wood of Woking, Surrey. He is commemorated on the war memorial at Old Woking and buried in plot 23.C.12 at Brookwood Military Cemetery. He was 25 years old when he died.

Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, the Union Flag was paraded by Mrs Sue Stallard, and the BLP Standard was paraded by Tom Milne.

Paul McCue read the war poem ‘Occupation’ by Roger Elkin.

Afterwards we had some refreshments round at the Trench Experience.

May Last Post

Today in the wonderful sunshine, we were joined by members of the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Association. The FCAFA hold a couple of ceremonies at the cemetery each year and we were honoured to have them join us. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Graham Cundy and Cllr John Kingsbury in his last role representing Woking Borough Council also attended.

We remembered Jaroslav Štěrbáček, who was a member of the Czech Air Force in the 30s, prior to transferring to the RAF in 1940. He was posted to the newly formed 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron which flew Hurricane Mk 1s. Jaroslav flew his first operational patrol flight on 19 August and five more during August.

At 13:00, 31 August, twelve 12 Hurricanes from 310 Sqn took-off for an operational patrol. At 13:25, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet over the Thames Estuary, they saw a Luftwaffe bomber formation along with numerous Me 109 for fighter support. 310 Sqn Hurricanes attacked and in the resultant dog-fight, Štěrbáček’s Hurricane was last seen attacking a Do 17 before being shot down by a Me 109 about 13:30. His Hurricane was seen to go into a steep dive with Jaroslav managing to bail-out. The Hurricane crashed near Romford, Essex, but Jaroslav landed into the Thames Estuary and is believed to have drowned, his body was never found.

P/O Jaroslav Štěrbáček is commemorated on panel 10 of the RAF’s Runnymede Memorial. He has the dubious distinction of being the 1st of 511 Czech airmen inc 1 WAAF to be killed in RAF service during WW2. He was 27 years old.

Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, the BLP Standard was paraded by Tom Milne and the Union Flag by Mrs Sue Stallard. We had an additional seven Standards on parade and a number of air force cadets.

After the ceremony we had some refreshments at The Trench Experience.

April Last Post

Today our Last Post ceremony was RAF themed, it being 100 years ago since the formation of the RAF. For this reason, we chose to extend our individual remembrance to four individuals, two from WWI and two from WWII.

Cadet Axel Bendix, 43rd Wing, Royal Flying Corps, aged 22 was undergoing training at Fort Worth, Texas, USA when he was killed on 21 January 1918.

Pte Francis Redwood, aged 30, of Wantage, Berkshire died on 19 November 1918 in unknown circumstances.

Both are commemorated on the WWI – The Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial for those with no known grave.

Warrant Officer Terence Riordan, aged 22, RAFVR of 98 Sqn RAF and Flying Officer Ernest Fooks, aged 32, RAFVR of 180 Sqn RAF were both pilots of North American B-25 Mitchell Mark II bombers based at RCAF Dunsfold, Surrey.

Returning from a bombing mission attacking construction sites for V-1 ‘buzz bombs’ on 7th January 1944, their two aircraft collided and crashed close to the village of Rudgwick, West Sussex. All crew were killed. Six were buried in their home towns, while Riordan and Fooks were buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.

We will remember them.

For the first time, in many years, the Brookwood Last Post’s Union Flag was paraded by Mrs Sue Stallard. This flag was commissioned in 1968 and is now 50 years old.

The Brookwood Last Post Standard was paraded by Alan Lopez and there were several other Standards on parade.

Afterwards we went round to The Trench Experience for refreshments.

March Last Post

Today we held a short ceremony, with around a dozen people attending.

We read the poem ‘What I Miss Most’ by James Love.

I miss the lads.
I miss those crisp clear nights,
when the frost glistens in the moonlight.
I miss those lonely exposed hills,
lashed by the rain.
I miss the young and innocent faces,
some of whom we’ll never see again.
I miss the laughter and the crack.
I miss their morbid humour,
the childish pranks and unspoken laws.
I miss the sense of belonging,
that unique bond.
I miss youth at its best,
though I’ll grow old, unlike the rest.

What I miss most?
I miss the lads.

(C) James Love

We remembered Lieutenant Commander David I Balfour. Lt Cdr Balfour was aboard HMS Sheffield when it was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile on 4th May 1982 during the Falklands conflict. He was 37 years old and lived in Hindhead, Surrey.

We will remember them.

March Last Post

Afterwards we went round to The Trench Experience for mulled wine.

February Last Post

Today we held a predominantly American themed ceremony. Individual American servicemen often joined Commonwealth forces in WWI before America formally entered the war. Many names on the Menin Gate are American servicemen.

We deviated slightly from our normal service and remembered two individuals. Two days ago, Major-General Otto Schwarz’s ashes were interred in the civilian section of the cemetery reserved for Czechoslovakian servicemen that did not die during the wars. Immediately next to the RAF Memorial, his wish was to be as close to his wartime comrades as possible.

We also remembered American Pilot Officer Ieuan ‘ Rex’ Haddock, killed on 30 June 1944 during a failed take off from Dunsfold Aerodrome. Rex is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in plot 54.J.9.

 

We will remember them.

Our Standard Bearer was Tony Brannigan and our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore.

The individual remembrances were read out by Mr Paul McCue, a military historian.

 

Afterwards we went round to the Trench Experience to warm up.