History News

Letters and poppies: village takes a fresh approach to the act of remembrance

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A panning shot of plucky Brits in pleasure craft. The resonant chords of Elgar’s Nimrod. The clipped intonation of a stoic remark in the face of overwhelming odds.

Dunkirk’s poignant reminder of the pedigree of our island nation struck a chord with many ‘cinemagoers’ this year.

It reminded us of what the people of our nation are capable of. Small scale acts of patriotism that collectively become an overwhelming and unstoppable force.

Many observing our nation today may have cause to doubt that this spirit lives on in the same way. But look closer and there is evidence in every community across the country of the bravery and pride that we still retain as an evolving but plucky Britain. The mere act of getting on the tube and going to work as normal the day after an unthinkable act of terror is a testament to a resilience that lives on.

Multimillion-pound blockbusters may take centre stage in reminding us of these traits. But nationwide there are other smaller scale demonstrations that we have not forgotten the beauty that is revealed alongside the horror in times of conflict.

One such demonstration will be taking place over this years Remembrance Weekend in the village of Walsham le Willows in Suffolk.

In this sleepy country nook two women, Donna Lockyer and Jan Hall, have drummed up a hive of activity within their local community.

The click and clack of knitting needles must have kept the village up for months on end as no fewer than 1500 hand knitted poppies were tirelessly crafted and sewn into cargo netting to be draped over the village church transforming it into a work of art worthy of a far bigger stage.

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This work was accompanied by the tireless thumbing of anthologies and sifting through stacks of yellowed Basildon Bond to select a program of some of the most moving, funny and inspiring letters ever written.

Alongside the display of poppies this remembrance Sunday, members of Walsham le Willows village drama group will be reading these letters to a live audience in the church.

The letters include one from Vera Lynn written to those members of the armed forces residing in POW camps during the Second World War, letters donated by members of the village between their mothers and fathers during the First World War and on a more light hearted note a letter from Evelyn War to his wife detailing the hilarious antics of the Royal Marines billeted on a Scottish Estate. They will be read by members from every generation in the village, from youths to veterans of the wars being remembered.

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The event is by no means aimed at romanticising conflict but instead aims to demonstrate the kindness, love and, at times, comedy that can come from the most dire circumstances. And it is not just the first and second world wars that are remembered through these letters. One series of letters is between the family of one of the victims of the Lockerby bombing and the owners of the farm where his body landed. Tragic, yet as you will find out if you head along to listen, heartwarming.

It is the little acts of thoughtful determination seen in events such as these that remind us of the true meaning of remembrance. Not a sad reflection of the losses endured but respect, pride and wonder at the determination, kindness and love that we as a nation are capable of in times of hardship and conflict.

The Poppies will be on display in St Mary’s Church, Walsham le Willows until the 13th of November and the Celebration of Letters will take place on Saturday the 11th of November at 0730pm.

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