May Last Post

During the continuing pandemic, there are no public ceremonies, however following social distancing rules, the May Last Post took place at the RAF Memorial with a handful of BLP Members in attendance.

We remembered Gunner Phillip John Leppard Fiest of he Royal Artillery, killed exactly 75 years ago, aged 23.

Our poem was V Day, by Edmund Blunden.

April Last Post

Our public ceremony was cancelled due to the national restrictions in place, however individual Members of the Brookwood Last Post performed their usual functions or simply remembered at three o’clock today.

Our bugler Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post and Reveille, whilst some of our usual Standard Bearers dipped their Standards at the appropriate time.

Paul McCue read out the Individual Remembrances. We remembered Private William Betterbee of the Royal Fusiliers and Gunner David Noble of the Canadian Garrison Artilery. Both men fought in the First World War, were wounded and were then victims of the Spanish Influenza epidemic and died exactly 101 years ago on 5th April 1919. They are both buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Our poem was by French war poet Guillaume Apollinaire who survived the war despite a serious head wound, but also succumbed to the Spanish Influenza epidemic. His biography shows a fascinating character:

While most World War I versifiers dwelled on the misery and toil of life in the trenches, avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire often portrayed it as an intoxicating feast for the senses. A bohemian artist with a mysterious past—he was once jailed on suspicion of having stolen the “Mona Lisa”—Apollinaire enlisted in the French Army in 1914 despite being older than the age of conscription. He took to the life of a soldier with gusto, and later turned his experiences into a collection of experimental verse titled “Calligrammes.” “How lovely these flares are that light up the dark,” he wrote in a poem titled “Wonder of War.” “They climb their own peak and lean down to look / They are dancing ladies whose glances become eyes arms and hearts.” Apollinaire’s battlefield reveries were cut short in 1916, when he suffered a severe head wound from a piece of shrapnel. He survived the injury, but later became one of the millions to perish in the Spanish Flu epidemic, just two days before the Armistice. He’s now considered a founding figure in the Surrealist movement that flourished in the 1920s after his death.

Guillaume Apollinaire, c. 1916
Guillaume Apollinaire, c. 1916

His poem, To Italy:

O night o dazzling night
The dead are with our soldiers
The dead are standing in the trenches
Or falling below ground towards the Dearly Beloved
O Lille Saint-Quentin Laon Maubeuge Vouziers
We hurl our towns like grenades
Our rivers are brandished like sabres
Our mountains charge like cavalry

It was a fitting tribute under the circumstances and we hope May will be a public ceremony. Thanks to Paul McCue of the Secret WW2 Learning Network for much of the text.

March Last Post

We welcomed representatives of Surrey Police to the March edition of the Last Post today. We were honoured to have the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Munro, Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp, the Ceremonial Association of Surrey Police and cadets from the Runneymede and Woking units.

Surrey Police lost 18 officers during the First World War and their names were read out along with brief details about each officer. We remembered:

  • Private William George Deacon
  • Private Henry Edward Thomas Bullen
  • Private Ernest William Brattle
  • Private Sidney Charles Macey
  • Private James Freemantle
  • Private Thomas Freemantle
  • Private William Avenall
  • Lance Corporal Noah Smithers
  • Sergeant Ernest Alfred Warrel
  • Private Donald Russell
  • Private Harry George Wise
  • Private William Payne
  • Sergeant Henny John Gascoyne (DCM)
  • Reservist Frank James Joyce
  • Lance Corporal Alfred James Weller
  • Sergeant Charles Henry Childs
  • Sergeant Harry Noakes

The Police and Crime Commissioner read out the poem Police – War Stories.

Our Standard Bearer was Alan Lopez, Tom Milne carried the Union Flag and we had two Standards from Surrey Police as well as the Royal British Legion, the Artists Rifles and the Woking Royal Navy Association.

Mrs Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post and the service was officiated by Bert Steed.

Afterward the Standards were inspected by the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Deputy Chief Constable, we had refreshments at the Trench Experience.

February Last Post

A very high attendance at one of our traditionally quiet ceremonies with over 70 people attending.

Our ceremony was dedicated to members of the French Special Operations Executive, many of whom were executed in concentration camps in WWII.

We were privileged to have family members of some of the people from our Individual Remembrance section.

We remembered:

Major France Antelme, General List, OBE (Military), Légion d’honneur, Vroix de Guerre, executed at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, 1944.

Ensign Denise Bloch, FANY, King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct, Légion d’honneur, Croix de Guerre, Médaille de la Résistance, executed at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, 1945.

Ensign Eliane Plewman, FANY, King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct, Croix de Guerre, executed at the Dachau concentration camp 1944.

Section Officer Lillian Rolfe, WAAF, FANY, executed at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, 1945.

Captain Arthur Steele, General List, Mention in Despatches, Croix de Guerre, executed at the Buchenwald concentration camp, 1944.

Ensign Violette Szabó, FANY, George Cross, Croix de Guerre. Médaille de la Résistance, executed at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, 1945.

Finally we remembered Section Officer Yvonne Cormeau, WAAF, FANY, MBE (Military), Légion d’honneur, Croix de Guerre, Médaille de la Résistance who died in Fleet, Hampshire, 1997.

Paul McCue of The Secret WW2 Learning Network read out a poem from the collection ‘Leaves of Buchenwald’ written by Lieutenant Maurice Pertschuk, agent of the French Section, SOE. Pertschuk was captured while serving clandestinely in occupied France and was executed at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. He is commemorated, with no known grave, on panel 22, column 1, of Brookwood’s Memorial to the Missing 1939-45′

We had four Standards on parade and the Last Post was sounded by Mrs Ruth Moore.

Afterwards we retired to the estaminet at The Trench Experience for refreshments.

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Thank you to Tony McCallum for the photographs and to Alan Meeks for the video shot that can be viewed here.

January Last Post

Our first Last Post of this decade had 42 people witness a short ceremony.

We remembered four Canadian airmen that were lost on 5th January 1945 when the Vickers Wellington bomber LP841 they were in collided with high tension cables when on a night navigation exercise. The bomber took off from RAF Ossington and two minutes later crashed in flames in a field just south of the village of Laxton.

Flight Officer John Clair McLeod (Pilot), aged 20, from Minnedosa, Manitoba; Flight Officer Edward Earl Fernandez (Navigator), aged 28, from Windsor, Ontario; Flight Officer Lou Jan Robillard (Bomb Aimer), aged 31, from Toronto, Ontario; Sergeant E A Bishop (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner), aged 21, from Carseland, Alberta were killed and all are buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery. Sergeant R Eden (Air Gunner) survived.

Tom Milne carried the Union Flag, Alan Lopez was our Standard Bearer and Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post.

With thanks to Alan Meeks for the photographs, and Paul McCue from the Secret WW2 Learning Network for the Individual Remembrance.

December Last Post

Today in the cold we held the short ceremony with a representative from the Woking Royal Navy Association parading their Standard.

We read The Evacuee: The Poem by Arthur King and our Individual Remembrance remembered Stoker 1st Class, George David Spinner. George was aboard HMS Hood when it was sunk by the German Battleship Bismarck on 24 the May 1941 during the Battle of Denmark Strait. He is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval memorial.

Gordon’s School Pipes and Drums attended and they very kindly read the Exhortation, played the Piper’s Lament and recited the Kohima Epitaph. We are extremely pleased that young people wish to participate in our ceremony as young people being involved is part of our mission.

Our Standard Bearer was Alan Lopez. The Union Flag was paraded by our Senior Standard Bearer Tom Milne. Ruth Moore sounded the Last Post and Reveille.

Afterwards we went round to the Trench Experience for mulled wine and mince pies. A nice way to round off an outstanding year for the Brookwood Last Post Association, and we look forward to next year.

November Last Post

Today, we held a magnificent ceremony with several hundred people attending.

The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks attended along with many Scouts, Cubs and Beavers from Woking District Scouts.

The 1st Claygate Scout and Guide band led a parade of Scouters and accompanied the hymn and National Anthem.

Gordon’s School Pipes and Drums led the parade including the Mayor and members of the public.

Paul McCue delivered the Individual Remembrance, and read a poem by 14 year old Joshua Dyer called ‘One Thousand Men are Walking’. The poem was written this year as part of a Remembrance Day project.

For the Individual Remembrance, we remembered Pilot Officer Emil Fechtner DFC RAFVR. Emil Fechtner was born on September 16th 1916 in Prague. He was in the Czech Air Force when the Germans took over Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

He joined 310 (Czech) Squadron at its formation at RAF Duxford on July 10th, 1940. He downed several German planes, including an ME109, DO17 and a ME110. He survived a crash, collision in mid-air before being killed when he crashed near Duxford on 29th October 1940, piloting a Hurricane. He is buried in Plot 28, the Czechoslovakian plot of Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Four Scouts said the Exhortation and the Last Post and Reveille was perfectly sounded by a member of 1st Claygate Scout and Guide band.

Gordon’s School Pipe Major played a highly emotional Piper’s Lament.

Today, the Union Flag was paraded by our Senior Standard Bearer Tom Milne and our Standard was paraded by Alan Lopez. Our chaplain was Rob Bennet and the sound was managed by the Scouts, for which we are very grateful.

At the end of the ceremony, the Mayor inspected the Standards and presented brass shields to the Scouts carrying the Standards that attended the 11 o’clock ceremony on 11 November 2018 at the Menin Gate as part of the centenary commemorations.

Afterwards we retired to the Trench Experience for refreshments.

For a full set of photos by Antony McCallum, see here.

Photo credits include Kevin Barker, Brian Davis and Antony McCallum.