Reading remembers a generation that ‘had iron in their souls’

A special service at Reading Minster Church remembered the fallen Phil Creighton – library photo

Reading gathered to remember the fallen at a special choral evensong held in the Minster Church on Monday, August 4.

The service marked the 100th anniversary of the day on which Great Britain declared war on Germany. It was held at the church from 7pm, ahead of a lights out event held by the war memorial near Forbury Gardens.

The tone of the evening was set as the choir sang the famous prayer for guidance, God Be In My Head, and In My Understanding, whose last line is ‘God be at mine end and at my departing’. The beautiful music and traditional service would have been familiar and comforting to the people of Reading 100 years ago.

At regular times during the proceedings, candles were extinguished reminding us of the quote attributed to Sir Edward Gray, British Foreign Secretary at the time war was announced. “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd – was sung. This may be one of the most famous sections of the Bible, and continues ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.’

How did the congregation feel hearing these words as their friends and family went to war?

Silence fell as a trumpeter played the last post followed by two minutes of silence. It was a warm evening and with doors open to allow cool air into the Minster, the hustle and bustle of St Mary’s Butts could be heard in the stillness. Someone forgot to switch off their mobile phone which rang during the observation of silence: another reminder that life goes on.

The trumpeter then played Reveille and another candle was quenched.

The Right Revd Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading gave the address. He reminded us that “despite many warnings war was still a dreadful surprise to the population and letters written at the time are still shocking.

“Society didn’t lose its moral compass in the trenches. With the fighting came a new sense of awareness of poverty and injustice in the world. Twenty years later another war was fought against injustice and hate. A new country was built with equality and a new politics.

“We should acknowledge the achievements of a generation who had iron in their souls,” continued Bishop Andrew, “who survived and made something better out of their experiences.

“It’s often in the darkest of places that we are the most real, to ourselves and each other.” he said.

“May we never forget them and the lessons they learned.”

At the end of the service the Minster cross and unlit candles were carried out of the church, reminding us of the darkness that swept across Europe leading to the loss of life on a scale that is still hard to grasp.

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 09:57