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200 join WWI procession to remember the Cradley 117

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 09, 2014

By John Workman

  • Bishop Christopher Mayfield leads the commemoration and remembrance service

  • John and Dennis Rose at the grave of their grandmother Dora where their grandfather James Southall is also remembered

  • The piper leads the procession down the Avenue of Remembrance

  • The memorial cross and stone in St Peter's Churchyard, Cradley

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TUESDAY August 4, 1914, was a day that changed the lives of everyone forever, a day that heralded a new age in warfare and a new age in the social structure of Britain, and 100 years later all over the country the centenary of the start of the First World War has been marked by services of commemoration and remembrance.

At the heart of the Black Country the people of Cradley were making their own personal commemoration to remember 117 servicemen who died on the battlefield and subsequently from injury, illness and disease, at St Peter's Churchyard in Cradley.

The sun shone brightly though a canopy of trees as a procession which included Bishop Christopher Mayfield, former Bishop of Wolverhampton and now honorary Bishop in the Diocese of Worcester, members of the Hallas parish clergy, a master piper at the head, whose solemn tones filled an already remarkable atmosphere, and more than 200 people progressed along the avenue of trees planted back in 1922 in memory of 60 former church school boys who were among the 117 killed.

Arriving at the wooden cross and memorial to the 60 young men, Bishop Mayfield spoke of the affects of the war, but how the local community had responded to unite in the face of adversity. A bugler played the Last Post and amid total silence the names of the 117 who died in the First World War were read out loud by members of the Royal British Legion, local historians and boys from the local scout group.

The silence that permeated the graveyard was broken only by the sounds of the wind rustling the trees and occasional chatter from a bird in flight.

Then the Reveille was played to uplift the mood and a shower of poppy petals rained down from all quarters, a poignant moment that left the ground shimmering with the spirits of all those who had died.

Hymns, a prayer of Remembrance, Bible readings and a commitment to peace was followed by a blessing from the bishop.

And after the crowd had dispersed two brothers from Netherton, John and Dennis Rose, were left to think about the grandfather they had never known, his name etched on the headstone at their grandmother's grave. James Southall was killed in France on August 23, 1916, one of the many who were being remembered by the people of Cradley at this moving occasion on this most remarkable day.

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