Royal Air Force Air Cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron and ex-service Standard Bearers joined the congregation of St Nicolas Church for a commemorative service on Sunday 3rd August which was held to mark the 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The First World War Centenary service was conducted by Revd Simon Betteridge, himself a former Nuneaton Air Cadet who now serves as chaplain to 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron.
Air Cadet Percussionists marked the beginning of the 100th Anniversary service with a rhythmical display of their award winning drumming. Having completed their display the cadets used their drums the build a makeshift Drumhead Alter, a military tradition which goes back centuries. Ex-service Standard Bearers then paraded their Standards into the church placing the Union and the Royal British Legion Standards onto the Drumhead Alter.
The Drumhead Alter was solemnly topped off with 121 Squadron’s most treasured wartime artefact, a cross made by German prisoners of war that bears the figure of Christ fashioned from a shell fragment recovered from the First World War, Ypres battlefield in Belgium.
Drumhead church services are traditionally conducted ‘in the field’ both during armed conflict and peace time. They replicate services, often conducted on the front line, where neatly piled drums draped with appropriate colours create a makeshift altar. Military Chaplains or Padres would have used such an altar to deliver multi-denominational services to the troops of many nations in the trenches during the First World War.
The Vigil itself was a wonderful service of readings, wartime poetry and prayers together with personal stories from members of the congregation whose relatives served in the horror of the trenches during the First World War.
At the end of the service the standard bearers from the Royal British Legion, ex-service organisations and Air Cadets dipped their standards in salute for a minutes silence in between the Last Post and Reveille.
Following the service, Rev Kelly Betteridge, Vicar of St Nicolas Church, said, We thank the members of 121 Squadron and the standard bearers for taking part in our vigil at St Nicolas. Many people commented on how moving the service was and I think that owes much to the wonderful drummers, standard bearers and the drumhead altar. Thank you all for giving up your time during such a busy period and for enabling us to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War ”.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks, Officer Commanding 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron added, "It’s been a very busy day, the Cadets and standard bearers were also on parade for a service to remember the residents of Hinckley who fell during the First World War and this evenings service here at St Nicolas Church has been an excellent conclusion to our day of remembrance. I think it all went off very well and it was a perfect pleasure to be invited to take part in this vigil service. The Cadets were an absolute credit to themselves and the Squadron and I think that it was a fitting opportunity to top of the Drumhead Alter with the Squadron’s cross which has such a significant link to the First World War battlefield of Ypres.”
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