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REMEMBRANCE Sunday may be a sombre affair but the massive turnout for the annual service in the town’s memorial gardens highlighted the enormous community spirit among Tonbridge residents who united in their thousands to honour those who have fallen during conflict.
The Remembrance service began at 10.45am with the Rev Anthony Hammill of the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul of Tonbridge welcoming the crowd which was so vast that people had to find vantage positions on the bridge over the river and perched on walls outside of the gardens.
The hymn God, Our Help in Ages Past was sung before former Tonbridge Mayor and the last President of the Tonbridge branch of the Royal Legion, Derek Still recited The Exhortation. A two minute silence was only punctuated by the sounds of football matches drifting across from the park next door, where players held a silence earlier before their kick off.
Wreaths were laid by several of the town’s representatives, including one placed on behalf of all veterans by Leslie Burkett, 95, who served in Burma during the Second World War with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and has lived in Tonbridge for 65 years.
As the national anthem was sung at the end of the service, the sun came out, signalling a bright start to the parade as thousands of people made their way onto the high street to watch a huge parade of local organisations, led off by the 17th Tonbridge Scout and Guide Band and excellently marshalled by the Tonbridge Lions.
Young and old paraded to the Canon Lawn at Tonbridge Castle where Tom Tugendhat MP, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, gave a speech thanking everyone for coming.
Reflecting on the day, Poppy Appeal organiser, Carl Lewis said: “It was an incredible turnout. I’ve never seen anything like it. But when we observed the silence, I thought of all those who have gone before and all those who have defended their country and the painful waves of loss that affect everyone.”
Two days earlier, the town fell silent at 11am to mark Armistice Day (Friday November 11) with hundreds gathering at the memorial by the Watergate, bringing the normally busy Tonbridge High Street to a standstill.
Peak Fitness gym in Tonbridge joined in Poppy Appeal by hosting an 18 hour ‘charity spinathon’ and raised more than £3,000 for the British legion. Over 100 volunteers topped the efforts of the previous two years in more ways than one, as they annually increase the challenge by three hours. From 12 hours in 2014, to 15 last year and 21 next year. The idea being that a 24 hour ‘spinathon’ will mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.