‘WE WILL REMEMBER THEM’
REMEMBRANCE DAY IN HEXHAM
Download a Remembrance Day programme:
Every year the Council is proud to organize the Remembrance Day Parade and Service of Remembrance in Hexham when we Honour those who gave their lives in War so that we all might live in Peace.
More than eleven years ago the Hexham Branch of the Royal British Legion was forced to disband due to the advancing ages of its members and their reducing number. They asked the Council to help and by a resolution of the Council it agreed it would be proud and privileged to organize Hexham’s Annual Remembrance Day Parade and Service of Remembrance.
The programmes show how each year the Council has tried to Remember the Fallen.
The Council remembers everyone’s obligation not to forget the many men and women of Hexham and elsewhere who died in the First World War, in the Second World War and in all the many Wars and Conflicts that have occurred since. They all died in our Service and it is a small thing to hold an Annual Remembrance Day Ceremony so they can be properly remembered and thanked for their service, their sacrifice and their bravery.
As previous years’ programmes show, we try to thank each year a veteran from each branch of the Armed Services. Take a while and read the individual pages for each of the veterans, you will soon see how brave they were, how unselfish they were and how we all owe them our thanks.
Sometimes people say why should do we do this, is it not glorifying war? The answer must be this – to remember a loved one who has died is surely the least you can do to show your love. So once a year Hexham remembers everyone who has died for us all, which is surely the least Hexham can do. War itself does not come into our thanks or remembrance.
WAR GRAVES CEREMONY
Within Hexham Cemetery there are buried 45 men and women who lost their lives as a result of their service during one of the two World Wars. In the first World War over 1,000 men from Hexham volunteered for service and 221 died.
In 1915 the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) [CWGC] was given the authority to record the burial places of all servicemen who died in service and to make arrangements for recording their service in the future. In order to ensure that there was equality in death they decreed that no bodies would be repatriated; that all the fallen in any action would be gathered together in one location as comrades together and that a standard headstone would be provided for each. Individual graves are marked by uniform headstones, differentiated only by their inscriptions: the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty is inscribed above an appropriate religious symbol and a more personal dedication chosen by relatives. Of course for many there was no grave as their place of death was destroyed or not known. This was especially true of those who died at sea or were involved with flying incidents. For these people, there are other memorials such as their names being inscribed on memorial walls, plinths or arches. Not all families accepted the War Graves Commission offer to provide a headstone and within Hexham Cemetery there are servicemen interred in family plots. Whether or not the offer of a headstone was accepted, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) still look after fallen service personnel’s’ headstones and ensure that they are maintained in good condition. This policy of non-repatriation of the bodies continued through the second World War and was only superseded by the events following the first Gulf War in 1990.
Hexham Cemetery was also made available to our allies and our enemies. At the end of the Second World War it contained the bodies of three French servicemen, two Italian prisoners of war and twelve German prisoners of war. In 1948 the French were exhumed and it is thought, returned to France; in 1958 the remains of the two Italians were exhumed to join their fallen comrades in Brookwood Military Cemetery; while in 1962 the remains of the twelve Germans were exhumed and reburied in their native land.
The 14 dead of World War One are distributed randomly across the cemetery while the majority of the 30 World War Two dead are in a dedicated military plot. Amongst the civilian graves are other family plots where family members who died in service and were not repatriated are remembered; and there are a further 12 of these.
On the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday there is a short ceremony of Remembrance at Hexham Cemetery for these men and women. Councillors and local Army and Air Force Cadets lay poppy crosses on each grave of those interred here. Some of them are buried in family plots but the majority are buried under a CWGC headstone. At each grave the name, a synopsis of the person’s life and history and their date of death are read out. Then the Poppy cross is placed at the head of the grave. It is an informal ceremony; there is no religious content, it is just to show we do ‘Remember Them’.
Most of the War Graves from the First World War are of service personnel who died from injuries received and were sent home to recuperate, or who died in hospitals within the United Kingdom. In such cases their bodies were returned to their families. Similarly, during the Second World War, where a combatant died within the United Kingdom then their body was returned to their families. However, during WW2 Hexham was chosen as the location of an “Emergency Hospital” whose task was to treat wounded servicemen away from the South Coast where the threat of invasion was intense and the risk of being bombed was ever present. Sometimes the injuries to these servicemen and women were just too severe for them to survive. Consequently within Hexham Cemetery there are graves of those who died here from all over the country and whose families decided that they should be buried where they had died; including one serviceman from Poland.
All are remembered each year with our Ceremony of Remembrance.
To see a list of all the War Graves in the Cemetery [click here].