As a brass player of nearly 30years Rememberance Sunday has never been an ordinary day for me. Back in 1987 when I first joined a brass band as a 17year old Armistice Day was always meant a freezing cold March and playing dust old hymns in the towns garden of Rememberance. In the shallow days of my youth I remember the irritation of having to get up early on a Sunday morning and marching with a load of old men in blazers and grey flannels wearing their berets and their medals. To my shame I once thought to myself this can’t go on forever, soon they will die and nobody will be left to March.
The garden of Rememberance was on the seafront nd when the wind got up you landed u with sand in your bell and the March cards would be ruined. The Solo Cornet played the last post and Revallie then the strange piper woman played her bagpipes. Some old bloke in a dress said Godly words then we marched them back to the RAFA Club where we had food…….the best bit. It never got to me……it was just another band job with irritating old soldiers and something we did before the carolling started.
As the years went on I started working for SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity and started to talk to Second World War Veterans and their widows. To them the War was real, it was their youth. Next Rememberance day our principal cornet was 18 and I realised that it wasn’t about old men marching but young men going to war. I have two brothers and suddenly I realised that in another time I could have lost them both. I had never let it in it was never real. But from that day onwards it was real to me.
2009 Harry Patch the last fighting Tommy died and a link to the First World War Was forever lost. It was that year I visited The Battlefields of France and the Thiepval Memorial and found the name of my Great Uncle Tommy who perished but his body was never found. I put a poppy in Rememberance…..now it was personal.
Since 2011 it has been my honour and privelige to play the Last Post at Bodelwyddan a small church in North Wales that has Commenwealth Graves of Canadian Soldiers. It s a job I take seriously.
This year we commemorate The Battle of The Somme. My Great Uncle Tommy died on the 10th July 1916. Tomorrow is the centenary of his death. I will place a poppy wreath on the Grave stone of my Great Grandparents where he too is commemorated. It is not an unusual story, it is the history of many families. I shall play the last post for Uncle Tommy and remember him for we mus never forget.