One hundred years ago, just days after the outbreak of the Great War, Ilfracombe's mounted town crier Robert Martin led the town's Territorial Army volunteers up to the station from where they departed en route to France.
Our present –day town crier, Roy Goodwin, thought it would be a fitting memorial to those brave men, and to all that went from our town if that march could be recreated (minus the horse!) And so it was that on August 2nd 2014 the Pier was abuzz with activity. TV and radio were there, talking to some of those taking part, there were marching bands, Sea Cadets, Veterans, RAF, Guides, town criers and their consorts from all over the UK, and also Bermuda, Belgium and Australia. People who had adopted a soldier were queuing to collect the plaques for them to carry proudly in the parade. Each one of the more than 160 men from our town who had fallen in WW1 was represented, in some cases by a relative. It was lovely to see how many children were involved, and to know that many had carefully researched "their" soldier.
The parade was mustered, and at the head was Roy, like Robert Martin before him. Near the front, the Belgian flag was carried by Saskia van de Voorde, great-great niece of Camille Kerckvoorde, a Belgian soldier who lies in Holy Trinity Churchyard, and beside it fluttered the special standard made by the Crafty Ladies at the Museum, which in due course will be on display there.
It was as the parade began to move down the Quay that I became aware of just how many were involved – it was wall-to-wall people. As we passed Pip 'n' Jim's, so the bell began to toll, which was very moving, and certainly a time for reflection.
In Runnymede Gardens the plaques were handed in, and in return the representatives received a copy of the book written by Sue Garwood and Jane Dendle. (Copies are on sale at the TIC and at the Museum for £5). The plaques are now on the Wall of Remembrance, in the gardens until November, and are generating much interest.
The town criers took turns to call the names of all the fallen, including the two Belgians and some from Ilfracombe, Queensland. This was followed by the Last Post, a minute's silence, and Amazing Grace played by the pipe band. Then Roy led us in saying together "Ilfracombe says Thank You," a fitting end to what had been a very special community event.
By Jane Dendle