Air Cadets from 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron have joined members of the Royal British Legion on an overnight vigil, in Remembrance to those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago.
The overnight vigil ran from 9.30pm through to 7.30am the following morning, with the Cadets working in shifts alongside the Royal British Legion, to provide a continuous presence at the Eureka Park Memorial Gates.
Despite the cold and occasional light rain shower, the Cadets stood resolute during this act of Remembrance. In what was considered to be the bloodiest battle of the First World War, the Battle of the Somme saw more than one million men wounded or killed, with 19,240 British Empire soldiers losing their lives on 1st July 1916, the first day of the conflict.
After performing his vigil, Cadet Samuel Redfern reflected, ‘it was quite eerie stood alone, at night, thinking about how the soldiers in the trenches must have felt 100 years ago. I am glad I took part in this”.
Prior to the start of the vigil, an act of Remembrance was held at Memorial gates in Swadlincote. Led by the Swadlincote branch of the Royal British Legion, the Service saw the lighting of a beacon by the Chair of the South Derbyshire District Council, Mr Pat Murray, amidst the backdrop of singing by the Gresley Male Voice Choir.
Air Cadet Bugler Sergeant Isobel Hughes played the Last Post and Reveille, whilst Cadet Ben Moore and Cadet Lauren Redfern recited the Poem, ‘In Flanders fields’. Corporal Damien Hubbard carried the 1211 Squadron Banner and Cadets Emily Brown and Chad Britton accompanied Mr Stuart Allen of the Royal British Legion, to start the vigil.
To close the 10 hour vigil, a poppy and bleuet flower wreath was laid at the Memorial gates and a whistle blast was sounded at 7.30am, symbolic of the whistle blasts 100 years earlier that signalled for British and French troops to go ‘over the top’ (of the trenches) on the first day of the conflict. As a small token of thanks for giving up their time (and sleep) to support the vigil, each Cadet was presented with a Commemorative ‘Somme 100’ badge, by the Swadlincote Royal British Legion Branch Secretary, Mr Glynn Jackson. Mr Jackson commented “During the planning for Somme Remembrance event, we were inspired to carry out this overnight vigil based on the enthusiasm of the Air Cadets. It has been an enjoyable and worthwhile experience”.
After the event, 1211 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Alyn Thompson said, “I am extremely proud of all of the Cadets for their professionalism and the attitude they have shown during the Service and throughout the vigil. In a busy year celebrating our own 75th Anniversary, I am pleased with how enthusiastic and keen our Cadets were to be involved in this Somme 100 event. As a token of my appreciation, I will now buy them all a well-earned breakfast!”
Sqn Ldr Thompson
OC 1211 Sqn