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July 2014

This is the day as the song says that ‘the big ship sails on the ally-ally-O’ – yes the last day of September!

So once again looking back at July!

July was very filled with a focus on the forthcoming commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1st World War

This was indeed an international commemoration, starting towards the end of July as various countries joined what was to be called initially ‘The War to end all wars’ but sadly was not.

The British Isles (that were still one until Southern Ireland became independent in the 1920s) declared War on 4th August 1914.

Locally here at Great Chart with Singleton there was much to remember and a group of us got together about 18 months ago as ‘Great Chart Remembers’ to plan what was to be a commemoration not a celebration.

Initially there was a lot of criticism as to why anyone should want to remember and mark the start of a War, but as the date drew closer interest grew as people realised the importance of remembering and giving thanks for those who suffered so much and gave their lives and of a War that changed the world for ever.

Also it seemed we were to be the only place in the Borough that was planning anything, but again as time went on almost every local community wanted to mark the event in some way,

And very much at the last minute we realised a big event down the road in Folkestone was to be attended by Prince Harry!

However despite all this our local event was quite significant and gathered many people, not least because there were also significant events from WW2 being commemorated on a 70th Anniversary – more men killed from the Parish, Chilmington Camp being bombed killing many American and Canadian military personnel, and RAF Ashford at Chilmington from where many men were killed in flights from the Air Field in WW2.

But WW1 – or ‘The Great War’ as it came to be called was hugely significant here at what then was just the small village of Great Chart when Singleton was just a hamlet of a Manor, Farm and a few cottages.

From this small village almost all the men would have gone off to fight largely in the trenches, and 27 were killed between September 1914 and 1923 (2 dying after the War was over as a result of injuries sustained).  Of these 27, 7 were completely forgotten when the War Memorial was put up in 1921, so devastated and decimated was this Parish by the losses that it was difficult to account for everyone.

We rectified this as the names of the 7 ‘forgotten’ men have now been added to our War Memorial.

But the men who fought were encouraged in a very specific way.  A local lady from Singleton Manor, Mrs Elizabeth Quinton Strouts, wrote to all the men on the front and received many letters back which she kept and have been preserved and filed and were part of our major WW1 exhibition.

And after the War, Great Chart was one of the first places to have a War Memorial, a project lead and driven by this remarkable lady Mrs Quinton Strouts.

Normally my Blogs being from a Cleric have a strong spiritual reflection to them.  And of course remembrance is at the heart of the Christian faith with remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection especially at our Communion Services.  This is why remembrance-tide each November is built around acts of worship in our cities, towns and villages.

When  I arrived as Rector of Great Chart just over 11 years ago I was surprised by how big an event Remembrance Sunday was in such a small village, but I believe it is because not only Mrs Quinton Strouts but others whom she inspired to join her were moved to establish a lasting memorial and event.  The church gave the land for the Memorial and were clearly a major player in the first and all subsequent commemorations.  Long may this be so, and it was a particular privilege to be part of this most solemn international commemoration focussed on our local community.

The church was open to visitors as it always is, and many visited as they came to the WW1 Exhibition in the Village Hall opposite, and to the War Memorial also opposite just a little way down the village street.  Our commemoration event began with a well-attended service on Sunday morning 3rdAugust, and ended with a packed church with about 300 people turning out on a Monday evening in August to commemorate that most tragic and awful event.  Great Chart Remembers; may we never forget.

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