LAST week’s church services and ceremonies in Nassau to mark Remembrance Day were conducted with customary solemnity, dignity and efficiency. They reflected, as they always do each November, the fine organisational work of those concerned in producing, with appropriate seriousness as well as pomp and pageantry, a national commemoration of those who perished in two world wars and other conflicts.
It is said we inherited this administrative expertise from Britain. But we have had sufficient time over many years as an independent country to hone our skills so that we know how to put on a formal show with love, decorum and attention to detail, together with a suitable flourish which accords with our own particular circumstances.
The annual traditional Remembrance Sunday service in Christ Church Cathedral was preceded two days earlier by a Remembrance Day Thanksgiving Military Service at St Agnes Anglican church co-hosted by the British Legion – Bahamas Branch, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and Police Force and the Bahamas Correctional Services Department.
These were followed, respectively, by the usual wreath laying ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance and a separate ceremony outside the Veterans’ Depot. There were also events at the Veterans’ Cemetery and the Nassau War Cemetery.
All these occasions were conducted with pride and flawless protocol and formality. While the emphasis was on the millions who died in different parts of the world, there were many tributes throughout to our own Bahamian veterans who selflessly volunteered for military service and were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause of freedom.
Sadly, their numbers are diminishing with the passage of time. But the remaining veterans and their families are still being supported and cared for by the British Legion – Bahamas Branch and we congratulate the administrator of this organisation, Adina Munroe, who is also a Defence Force Reservist, for her wonderful work in ensuring the effective running of the British Legion’s local branch over the course of many years and for her continuing dedication to such a worthy cause.
While Remembrance Day ceremonies are held annually in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth, the younger generation, in particular, may not be fully aware of the origins and reasons for honouring the fallen nor of the horrific scale of death and destruction during the two world wars.
The figures for Britain’s involvement in the First World War are staggering. Of around six million people who served in the war, just over 700,000 did not come back – and, of those who did return home, more than 1.5 million were wounded or disabled in some way.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was established in 1917 and is responsible for the commemoration in perpetuity of the total of 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during both world wars.
The Royal British Legion was founded in 1921 as a charity to provide financial, social and emotional support to the surviving veterans of the Armed Forces and their dependants.
Over the years, the Legion has been the champion of the nation’s efforts – through its fund raising, welfare and educational work and the organisation of Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day) both in London and in different parts of the country – to remember and honour those who lost their lives. In total, there are some 2,500 British Legion branches in Britain and in the countries of the Commonwealth.
Remembrance Day is always on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year when the Armistice was signed in 1918 to end the First World War. The poppy was chosen as a symbol of remembrance following a famous poem written in 1915 called “In Flanders Fields”, the author of which was inspired by the sight of red poppies growing in the battlefields despite the devastation – and the red came to signify bloodshed.
As well as paying our own tribute to those who died, this newspaper salutes all those who play a part in the successful organisation and management of the various events here at home each year in memory of the fallen, not least the Bahamas Branch of the British Legion and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force which makes such a strong contribution under the leadership of Commodore Tellis Bethel whom we should like to commend.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to those concerned who do this nation proud.