Members of the Brookwood Last Post were at the Menin Gate, Ypres today for the eleven o’clock ceremony. The BLP Standard was paraded by John Pain as part of the Woking District Scout contingent that have been coming to BLP ceremonies over the past few months in preparation.
The ceremony was as humbling as expected and we felt honoured to be there for the historic ceremony marking 100 years since the end of World War One.
Today we held our third November Last Post with many representatives from Woking District Scouts covering all sections including Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers. Also present was the 1st Claygate Scout and Guide Band who provided all the music and the sounding of the Last Post and Reveille.
115 of the Woking District Scouts are to leave on Friday for a trip to Ypres for the weekend of Remembrance and will lay a wreath at the Menin Gate on Saturday 10 November. On November 11, the Scouts will form part of the Poppy Parade and parade through Ypres Market Square prior to joining the ceremony at eleven o’clock. The BLP wishes them well.
Briefing from Parade Marshal
Woking District Scouts at ease
Between 250 and 300 people were in attendance as Paul McCue read out a biography of Lieutenant Roland Dowlen, French Section, Special Operations Executive (SOE). Dowlen was also a Scout Master with the 22nd South Poplar Scout Troop immediately before WWII. He was a much-admired and well-respected troop leader, who would be remembered and honoured many years later by the boys in the troop. One founder member, Kenneth Kneeshaw, recalled:
“At one time the troop was at camp and one boy from each patrol was designated to cook the breakfast for his patrol. Roland was sitting by the fire where a boy was cooking sausages in a large Dixie lid. Suddenly the contents caught fire. The boy dragged the lid from the fire but in doing so he tipped the hot fat and contents over Roland’s leg. Roland said nothing, he merely rolled his sock down, poured cold water over the affected part and the incident was never mentioned again.”
Paul McCue reading the biography of Lieutenant Roland Dowlen
Dowlen joined the British Army Service Corps in September 1941. He joined the SOE at the beginning of April 1942 and underwent training at STS 5 Wanborough Manor, near Guildford, Surrey.
Dowlen was sent to France on the night of 17/18 March 1943 as a Wireless Telegraphy (W/T) operator. He was captured, mid-transmission, at Vaux on 31 July. He was taken to KZ-Flossenburg concentration camp on or around the 4th April 1944 and almost a year after his arrival was executed on 29 March 1945. He is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing 1939 – 1945, Brookwood Military Cemetery.
The Rev. Rob Bennett officiated over the ceremony and Mrs Sue Stallard was our Standard bearer. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Will Forster attended and laid a wreath, before District Commissioner, Mrs Liz Pocknell laid a wreath on behalf of Woking District Scouts, and Mr Angelo T Munsel, Superintendent of the American Battle Monuments Commission laid a wreath.
Afterwards we went round to the Trench Experience where there was a fire and hot drinks.
(C) Sections of the text, Paul McCue, November 2018. Photos by Lucy Longley, Surrey Scout Media Team.
Today, our ceremony in the late summer sunshine was a special one concentrating on Brookwood Military Cemetery’s Memorial to the Missing 1939-1945.
We remembered three individuals; Ensign Madeleine Damerment – First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) / French Section Special Operations Executive (SOE), Major Richard Edwards – Royal Army Medical Corps and Volunteer Amiram Shohet – Palmach / SOE.
Ensign Damerment, whose family was part of the French Resistance, voluntarily joined the French Section of the SOE. Appointed to the FANY, she was parachuted into France on the night of 28/29 February 1944. Quickly captured, and held in a number of prisons, she was transferred to Dachau Concentration camp and was executed there on 13 September 1944.
Present at the ceremony today, and acting as Standard Bearer of a three person colour party from the present day FANY (PRVC), was Zoe Brooke, great-niece of Madeleine.
Major Edwards spent a great deal of his wartime service on troop ships in and around the Mediterranean, during the North Africa campaign and the landings in Italy. On 25th November 1943, HMT Rohna on which he was Senior Medical Officer and carrying around 2000 US troops, joined a convoy at Oran, Algeria bound for the Far East. The convoy was attacked by German aircraft on the following day off Tunis and HMT Rohna was sunk after being struck by a new type of guided bomb, the Henschel 293. The resulting loss of 1015 GI’s was the greatest loss of life at sea ever suffered by the US forces and in addition, 134 British and Indian officers and men perished.
Major Edwards’ son, Jonathan, and his grand-daughter Fenella Bootle-Wilbraham were present at the ceremony today.
Volunteer Shohet was the mate of the Sea Lion boat used during Operation Boatswain (known in Hebrew as kaf-gimel yordei ha-sira, “the twenty-three who went down with the ship”), the first of the operational missions carried out by the Palmach as part of the cooperation between the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine (now Israel) and the British, during WW2. The mission, to sabotage Vichy French oil refineries in Tripoli, Lebanon was unsuccessful, ending with the disappearance of 23 Palmach commandos/SOE volunteers and British SOE officer Major Sir Anthony Palmer after the Sea Lion (borrowed from the British Palestine Police) was lost at sea on May 18, 1941. Several theories have been put forward for the boat’s loss including rough weather and the possible explosion of the explosives being carried.
Amiram Shohet’s second cousin, (former) Ambassador Gershon Gan was present at the ceremony today.
We read out the poem The Life That I Have, written by Alfred Marks and used as her coding poem by Violette Szabo GC of French Section, Special Operations Executive, commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing and subject to the film Carve Her Name With Pride. Paul McCue read the poem and the biographies.
Our ceremony was conducted by our Padre, Mr Bert Steed and we also had a representative from the Jewish Community lead with the Kaddish prayer.
Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev laid a wreath and at the end of the Ceremony at the invitation of our Parade Marshal, inspected the seven Standards on parade.
BLP Member John Kingsbury laid a wreath remembering our former Chairman, Mr Malcolm Head.
Afterwards, we retired round to the Trench Experience for some refreshments.
We started our ceremony today with the sad news that our previous Chairman, Mr Malcolm 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.
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.
Mrs Kauser Akhter
Mr Simon Trick
Mr Inderjeet Singh Rehncy
Mrs Meeta Joshi
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.
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.
We had nine Standards on parade, five from the Scouts with Mrs Sue Stallard parading the BLP Standard.
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.
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.
Woking District Scouts in attendance
11 Standards on parade
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.