A DEEPLY moving shroud of silence will descend over Westmorland on Sunday to mark 100 years since the First World War guns finally fell silent.
The added poignancy of the century old commemoration will see residents of virtually every town and village turn out in force to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Church bells will ring out in unison around the county and beacons will be lit on fell tops. Thousands of knitted poppies are decorating places of worship and a host of special events have been planned to “remember them.”
These include a world record breaking cupcake baking bid and a heritage football match in Burton-in-Lonsdale, that will recreate the unofficial truce between British soldiers and German troops in the trenches on Christmas Day in 1914.
But the run up to commemorations in Bolton-le-Sands have been soured by the theft of a decorative 98-year-old bronze sword which has been stolen from the village war memorial.
Residents were said to be ‘appalled’ and ‘heartbroken’ after discovering the sacrilegious theft. The Rev Nancy Goodrich, of the village’s Holy Trinity Parish Church, described the crime as “a new level of disrespect.”
“It’s highly unlikely that it will make its way back for this weekend but we can only hope,” she said. “It’s a crime against all memorials. The sword did not only represent those who served from the community but all across the nation. None of us dreamed that someone would steal it for their own gain, especially so close to Armistice.”
A year ago The Westmorland County Agricultural Society (WCAS) launched a project called Westmorland Remembers with the challenge to its members to make, by hand, as many poppies as they could ahead of the special Armistice anniversary.
WCAS chairman Stephen Proctor said more than 10,000 poppies had been made for a display at Kendal Parish Church.
“Lots of groups and individuals got involved with the project,” said Mr Proctor. “One life long member of the society, Joan Garnett, knitted 1,918 poppies.
“Never in this world did I think so many poppies would be made, the response has been overwhelming.”
The red poppies recognise human loss and the purple ones represent the contributions during the conflict made by animals such as horses, dogs and pigeons. To commemorate this a horse blanket made up of around 2,000 poppies was also created.
“As a farming and agricultural organisation, the representation of a purple poppy means a lot to us and it is a reminder of the many thousands of animals that were killed,” said Mr Proctor.
One of the groups that helped out with the year-long project was Kendal Rugby Club’s Sewing Bee who made more than 1,000 poppies for the Kendal Parish Church display.
Tony Crane, county chairman of the Cumberland and Westmorland Royal British Legion (TRBL) described the work done by volunteers this year as “fantastic.”
“It’s wonderful to receive the support we get,” he said. “This is a very poignant year for all of us. The money that has been raised and donated to (TRBL) goes towards the welfare of our former servicemen and their families.”
The names of 316 men from Kendal are recorded on the Kendal War Memorial on Stricklandgate. Kendal Library, with the support of Kendal Town Council and TRBL has created a walking trail to commemorate their sacrifice along with those from Oxenholme.
The trail will take people on a tour of where they lived before going off to war, with information posters located at each street. The trail guide, which includes a map of the route, can be purchased from Kendal Library with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.
And from tonight Kendal Town Council has arranged that images of falling poppies will be projected onto the outside of Kendal Town Hall.
Six parishes north of Kendal, Fawcett Forest, Longsleddale, Patton, Scalthwaiterigg, Selside and Skelsmergh have raised more than £2,000 to create a First World War centenary exhibition.The exhibition will tell the stories of the lives of the 37 men, from the area, who died and explain the impact of the war locally. The free event opens tomorrow (Nov 9) with a short concert by the children of Selside Primary School who have been learning about the conflict.
Soon after the end of the First World War, 14 Lake District summits, including Great Gable and Scafell Pike, were gifted to the National Trust to look after on behalf of the nation. These great gifts of freedom, described at the time as ‘the world’s greatest war memorials’ have played a special role in the trust’s year of remembrance.
Trust rangers will hold their own personal moments of reflection on Scafell Pike on Armistice Day. A one-minute silence will also be observed at National Trust properties in the Lake District, where possible, and there will be a celebration of freedom at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival on November 18.
This year, residents from Albert, Ulverston’s twin town, situated in the Somme region of France, not far from Amiens, will visit Furness and take part in some of the remembrance events.
In Windermere and Ambleside more than 100 large poppies have been attached to lamp-posts with names of the fallen soldiers from the Lakes towns attached.
In Milnthorpe a memorial iron bench decorated with poppies has been unveiled as a dedication to the 21 lads from the village who laid down their lives for their country.
In Grange-over-Sands, St Pauls Church has a display of red poppies with the name of the 51 men that died from the area. A group of women knitted approximately 1,400 red poppies for the display. “We didn’t have a particular target in mind,” said Grange resident Margaret Ratcliffe, “We were worried we wouldn’t have enough but it’s been such a lovely thing to do together and hopefully we can do something similar in the future.”
At nearby Heversham, where the village memorial records the names of the 17 people killed in the Great War, there will be a special remembrance service at St Peter’s Parish Church on Sunday. Sitting among the congregation will be 17 ‘there but not there’ perspex silhouettes. A six foot high figure called “Tommy” will stand by the war memorial and the church will, until next Tuesday, feature a display called “Stories and Memorabilia.”
And pupils at Kirkbie Kendal School have made 500 clay poppies that have been “planted” near the flag pole at the front of the school