Sittingbourne residents turn out in huge numbers for Remembrance Sunday service
This year was special in so many ways, firstly and most importantly it marks the 100th Anniversary of the of the Avenue of Remembrance. Each tree along the avenue was beautifully adorned with a red ribbon and giant poppy to commemorate the 182 local men who fell during World War One.
The Avenue of Remembrance is Sittingbourne’s ‘Living Memorial’ to those men. The road and the original War Memorial erected in Albany Road Recreation Ground were constructed in 1921.
The official naming of the road came two years later in 1923. Initially 181 trees were planted with individual commemorative plaques. Now numbering 182 fallen, the names reflect those inscribed on the original War Memorial.
Following the conclusion of World War II, a further 98 names were remembered by adding 15 further trees and plaques along Central Avenue, with the other names being recorded in blocks around the seating area at the War memorial. Seven of the names were later added to the Memorial in Central Avenue.
The Avenue of Remembrance is now believed to be the only thoroughfare of its kind, within the UK.
The day commenced with a short service at St Michael's church led by Reverend David Ridley. This was attended by the King’s representative, Deputy Lieutenant Paul Auston DL, The Mayor of Swale, Sarah Stephen and Chief Executive of Swale Borough Council Larissa Reed.
Following the service, a parade of some significant length commenced from St Michael's church, along Bell Road and The Avenue of Remembrance before making a final turn into Central Avenue.
To mark this special occasion, this year’s parade was led by the Royal British Legion Riders, followed by three historic military vehicles, including a tank, provided by the Invicta Military-Vehicle Preservation Society.
Following the vehicles, the parade marshal, Sergeant Major Instructor Pete Cass, from the Kent Army Cadet Force, escorted the marching contingent, which was led by Deputy Lieutenant, Paul Auston DL and Lt. Colonel Simon Dean OBE, Kent Army Cadet Force, followed by standard bearers, ex-service organisations, Navy and Army Cadets, Kent Volunteer Police Cadets, scouting and guiding groups as well as members of the public.
Over 115 members of the local community, some of whom were relatives of the fallen, took up their positions as tree sentinels lining each side of the Avenue of Remembrance as the parade passed.
As is tradition the Salvation Army band commenced proceedings followed hymns and readings from RBL chaplain Pat Tatchell who led the service.
This event was additionally attended by MP Gordon Henderson’s Chief of Staff – Jess McMahon, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Dean (a grandson of Sittingbourne’s WW1 Victoria Cross recipient – Colonel Donald Dean VC). Along with the ex-service organisations, cadets, scouts, guides, brownies, rainbows and the public, were joined by the Police and Fire Brigade to show their respects.
After ‘Reveille’, twenty-five white doves, representing the twenty-five local areas and parishes around Sittingbourne were released, symbolising peace. Following this, over 40 wreaths were laid.
During the laying of wreaths, the flag bearers lowered their flags and the poem, ‘Vitai Lampada’ by Sir Henry Newbolt, was read by retired Royal Logistic Corps Territorial Army Officer Richard Emmett VR, and from the Sittingbourne Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club and chair of the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne.
The event was concluded with a further short parade, where the Deputy Lieutenant took the salute as the parade past in front of the war memorial.
The Mayor of Swale said: “It was an amazing day…a massive Thank You to the organisers, participants and volunteers for making it such a special event.”
100 Years of Sittingbourne’s Living Memorial
The Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne (HRGS) has been researching the Avenue since 2012 and have just published a book that reveals that the town now uniquely has the last remaining thoroughfare within the United Kingdom and indeed across the Commonwealth of this type. There are 370 pages of fascinating facts about the men commemorated along the Avenue of Remembrance, which is now on sale at the Heritage Hub for just £12.50. Also, if you are interested in the men who are remembered on the Avenue from the First World War, you can check their website for more details: https://hrgs.co.uk/aor-ww1-names
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