The sonorous chimes of Big Ben tolled eleven and the crowd stood in silence. Two minutes later, a lone bugler blew “Reveille,” and the people resumed their seats to look on approvingly, as military veterans and their relatives stepped up to place their red wreaths on the steps of the war memorial.
Not Westminster, but the centre of Kyrenia on the morning the local branch of the Royal British Legion held its annual Service of Remembrance at the Old British Cemetery. With Cyprus two hours ahead of GMT, the event is timed to coincide with that in Britain, “On the eleventh hour.”
The autumn sun is still warm and some attended in short sleeves, but for most, it was dark blazers, suits and coats as befits a Sunday service. Smart or casual, everyone wore a paper poppy, that symbol created from the fields of Flanders, new life, fresh hope pushing bravely through the mud and the blood. One or two had to be helped from wheelchairs and others leaned heavily on a walking stick, but not one failed to snap to attention as they stood before the tall slabs of black granite to salute those who died serving their country. They represented corps and regiments of military romance, long ago absorbed into a leaner modern army; the Royal Norfolk, Green Howards, the Duke of Wellington’s, the Mercian and Suffolk Regiments, like the names on the memorial, gone, but not forgotten. “You can FEEL the pride,” said the lady next to me.
It was not a purely British affair. TRNC President Ersin Tatar laid a wreath “for all Cypriots who died in the service of the Crown,” and there were others on behalf of the Cyprus Regiment and Cyprus Turkish veterans.
First and Second World War, Korea, the Falkland Islands, or Cyprus, the wars went on – and still go on- as Rev.Edward Jervis reminded us, including in his prayers a plea for peace in Ukraine.
Was the crowd a little thinner this year? Perhaps, but the feelings were as strong as ever, the determination the same: “We will remember them.”