Thame Remembers

A Century on, Thame Remembers

Based on an original article by local reporter Sonja Francis, www.Thame.Net

One hundred years ago World War One was declared and hundreds of Thame’s young men left home, many of them leaving from Thame railway station, to join the fighting, some never to return from a war that killed millions.

On Sunday, August 3 the people of Thame joined in a collective act of remembrance, and witnessed the launch of the Thame Remembers Project, beginning the ambitious challenge to deliver a special Thame Remembers cross to the grave or memorial of each and every person named on a War Memorial in Thame, where ever in the world that may be.

The programme began with a service at St Mary’s church, packed with local people of all ages, who heard Churchwarden Helena Fickling read Wilfred Owen’s moving poem, 1914, which begins with the heart-searing words: “War broke: and now the Winter of the world, With perishing great darkness closes in.”

Pastor Paddy Harris, of Thame’s Cornerstone Church, read the Reflection and Cllr Nick Carter read W W Gibson’s poem, The Messages, which contains the devastating chorus of: “I cannot quite remember…..There were five dropped dead beside me in the trench – and three whispered their dying messages to me….”

Afterwards, the congregation filed out of the church processing behind a lone piper who led them through the church yard, passing several grave stones marked with a fluttering, scarlet ribbon. The ribbons marked a war casualty whose grave or memorial would soon receive a special ‘Thame Remembers’ cross to start the long, world-wide, journey towards achieving the aims of the challenge.

What looked like a tented encampment from across Church Meadow included an exhibition of military weaponry, uniforms and artefacts; an exhibition about the tunnels and trenches that are still being explored today by the Durand Group, of which local ex-army Major and military historian Ian Jones is an active member; a refreshments tent, and an exhibition and video about the project. Rifleman Tom Bowen, a serving soldier who lives in Thame, was just one of many uniformed representatives of the modern fighting forces, most of whom themselves, like Tom and Ian, have lost colleagues and friends in conflicts around the world.

Then came the most poignant and significant part of the evening. As a bugler played Reveille the names of 31 of Thame’s fallen who are buried or remembered in St Mary’s churchyard, were read out, recalling when and where they died. As each name was spoken, a relative or an invited local dignitary, accompanied by a young person, often a Scout or Guide, processed to that particular graveside or memorial where they spoke a few words of recognition of his great sacrifice, before laying a small Thame Remembers cross in front of the headstone. Once all the crosses had been delivered the evocative sound of the bugle playing the Last Post was the signal for a minute’s silence before the cross parties returned to the gathering, some remaining to join a vigil in the church.