More people than ever turned out to remember The Fallen in Tunbridge Wells on Sunday at this year’s Act of Remembrance ceremony and parade.
A crowd of up to 2,000 stood shoulder to shoulder around the town’s War Memorial statue as a mark of respect for our armed forces, and all of those who have given their lives in conflict to protect us.
As the 100th anniversary approaches of the end of the First World War’s bitter Battle of the Somme (November 18) old soldiers and young cadets marched together in what organisers claim was the biggest Remembrance Day parade in the South East.
Tunbridge Wells Mayor David Neve said: “The number of people attending the ceremony increases each year. Tunbridge Wells is a fantastically supportive community.”
The service began at 10.50am, leading up to the chimes of Big Ben ringing out through giant speakers at 11am, followed by the two-minute silence and the Last Post.
Flag bearers and buglers lined the grass outside the Town Hall, while Cabinet minister and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark was among the Civic Party paying tribute in front of the War Memorial and laying wreaths.
Those joining him included the Mayor and Mayoress, the Deputy Lieutenant of Kent Peter Blackwell, the President of the Royal Tunbridge Wells branch of the Royal British Legion David Wakefield, Mrs Muriel Willis of the War Widows, borough council Chief Executive William Benson and council Cabinet Member Cllr Jane March.
With the central roads in the town closed for the event, the service of Remembrance Thanksgiving and Dedication was led by the Mayor’s Chaplain, Father John Caster, assisted by Major David Squirrell of the Salvation Army and Deacon Kevin Dunne of St Augustine’s Catholic Church, with Cllr Julian Stanyer narrating.
The Declaiming Officer, who recites the readings, was Jennifer Watts of the Royal Tunbridge Wells branch of the Royal British Legion. Others taking part were Parade Commander Flt Lt Tim Blackwell and the band of the 129 (Tunbridge Wells) Squadron Air Training Corps, Parade Marshal James Greenwood of Kent Police (Rtd), buglers of TS Brilliant TW Sea Cadet Corps, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Orpheus Male Voice Choir, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Salvation Army Band and cadets from Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School.
Also laying wreaths were armed services representatives, the Salvation Army, the Round Table, The Lions Club, St John’s Ambulance and Girl Guides and Scouts, and there was a flypast of four planes.
Further services were held at 2pm at the two Cross of Sacrifice memorials at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery led by David Wakefield and Jennifer Watts of the Royal British Legion and attended by the Mayor and Mayoress and the Deputy Lieutenant.
On Friday, there was also a ceremony at the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial for Armistice Day itself, marking the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the Mayor joined representatives of the Royal British Legion for the two minutes’ silence and salute.
Tunbridge Wells’ War Memorial, which marks 764 lost in the First World War as well as those lost in the Second World War, is guarded over by the striking bronze statue of the figure of a soldier holding a rifle. Unveiled in 1923, it was commissioned by the council and designed by Stanley Nicholson Babb.