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.