Sunday, 11 November 2007

Day 9

Like most mornings I was up and awake by about 6am. I am sleeping very soundly (not that I have any problems with sleeping) but I really notice that it's so quiet here.

With today being remembrance Sunday, it’s a packed day of ceremonies which kicked off with a 9am service down at the cathedral. By the time I got there most of the prime seats had been taken, not that we had much chance of getting them as the lads wanted to stand outside and have a last smoke.

It was already standing room only inside so we were ushered into the parish hall where they had set up a television so we could see what was going on next door. The service itself was fairly long and didn’t finish until almost 1030. I think not enough thought was given to the fact that not everyone is a practising Christian. Also the sermon seemed to dwell on points that were really nothing to do with why we were there and wandered off and discussed rather political points about internal Christian wrangling. Oh and while I am bitching, I think that the Roll of Honour should have included those who died in 1982 and not just in WW1 and WW2 as I thought that was why we were here today. To remember those who had died. There was one unplanned event, when one of the veterans walked to the front of the church and read a poem. Sadly I couldn’t hear it though it seemed to go down well and received a warm round of applause.

After the church service, we filtered out and formed up before marching to the Cross of Sacrifice. The Scots Guards formed our own attachment at the rear of the parade and with four pipers to lead us, we followed a discrete metre or two behind the rest of the parade. Unlike the others we kept pace and I must say it myself we made an impressive sight marching along despite the rain and sleet that was by now falling quite heavily.

On the way we did 'eyes' left to the governor of the Falklands which again was rather smartly executed.

At the cross of sacrifice we had another service with a wreath laying, but as we were down on the road we didn’t hear anything. By this time the rain and sleet was still falling and we were all getting pretty cold. A two gun salute was fired from Govenors house and the sound echoed around the mountains. That was an eerie noise as the last time I heard that here was all those years ago. 'Last Post' was played and was ended as the RAF doing a fly past. One of the Tornadoes did a very impressive victory roll at low level over Stanley before punching the after burners and vanishing into the clouds.

The parade was dismissed and the idea was for us to visit the Memorial Wood. This is a wood that was recently planted with one tree for each of the lads who died. In fact each tree has a specific persons name assigned to it and there is a map telling us the layout. With all the people around though I didn’t feel this was the time to lay my crosses. I wanted to do it quietly by myself and not in front of a crowd.

I headed back to the house and got changed out of my rather damp suit, before popping up to the Drill Hall to have a curry lunch. The hall was full of veterans, islanders and lots of young serving members of the forces. Having spent most of my time talking to fellow veterans and islanders, I decided to spend time talking to the soldiers, sailors and airmen who had provided the honour guard today at the services.

First I chatted to some of the RAF guys who were all working at Mount Pleasant. The Navy guys were from HMS Clyde and told me a little about life on board the ship. The soldiers were from the Princess Of Wales Royal Regiment and this is the same unit as Johnson Beharry who won the VC in Iraq and the guys who held CIMIC house for 2 months.

All the guys I spoke to had seen almost constant action in Iraq and a couple of them had Mention in dispatches. They all seemed in good cheer, but I could only think that I was something like this at their age. I hope in years to come they don’t get the sort of problems many of the Falklands veterans have experienced and that they get the help if they need it. I found out that some of the Scots Guards are taking them on a battle field tour tomorrow so I will tag along as I want to see Tumbledown one more time.

I came back to the house for supper and Alex joined us again. After having a bite to eat, we popped around to the Victory Bar for a drink with the lads. After a beer, I called in at Teena’s to print off the Ode To Tumbledown and then having dropped it off back at the pub headed home.

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