Witham Town Council and the Royal British Legion worked together to devise a programme of local events to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War between 2012-2018.
WW1 Centenary Commemorations
Friday, 1st July 2016 marked the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme which was one of the worst days in the history of the British Army. Nearly 58 000 men, many of whom were inexperienced volunteers, were declared missing, killed in action, wounded or taken prisoner.
To mark this auspicious occasion, as part of its ongoing WW1 centenary commemorative programme, the Town Council and Royal British Legion held a parade through the town centre to the Town Park where a Drumhead Service was staged.
Holding a Drumhead Service is a tradition going back for centuries, whereby soldiers in the field, with no chapel or church nearby on a Sunday, would lay or stack their drums neatly, consecrate them by laying their standards on them and use them as a temporary altar. The colours, having been blessed by a priest on their award to the regiment, are holy relics, and therefore carry the same religious weight as an altar. Drumhead Services are still held as a salute to those who fought on battlefields around the world and made the ultimate sacrifice
It is hoped that as many residents as possible will want to come along to the park and watch in the Drumhead Service to make it another memorable occasion in Witham.
Lest we Forget
In a project instigated by Witham Town Council, pupils from New Rickstones Academy in Witham have collaborated with street artist, Scott Irving from spray can arts company, Brave Arts to turn a graffiti-strewn area along Witham’s River Walk into a hugely impressive memorial to those lost in WW1. The mural was completed in November 2015.
The project is part of Witham’s WW1 Centenary Commemorations which are being co ordinated by the Town Council working in collaboration with the Royal British Legion.
Scott Irving ran art workshops with children from Year 8, together with art teacher Hannah Mais, and talked about the history of the town’s involvement in the conflict using research about the period collated by local historians. The children read journals and letters written by local men fighting on the front line. The students then drew up initial designs for the murals which Mr Irving refined. A group of 14 students then put the finishing touches to the work on the gauging station.
The Council has originally planned to site the murals on the railway arches, but were unable to secure the agreement of Network Rail in time. The Environment Agency came to the rescue, and suggested painting an old disused gauging station on the River Walk which has been an eyesore for many years. Local residents have been very moved by the evocative murals which include references to local people.
A talk about Witham during the Great War was given by local historian William Tyler on Friday 30th October 2015 in St Nicolas Church. It was well attended and raised money toward the local Poppy Appeal.
Service of Commemoration
On the afternoon of Sunday, 3rd August 2012 nearly 300 people attended a Service of Commemoration at St Nicolas Church, in Chipping Hill. Before the service, the bells were rung 100 times as a sombre reminder of the anniversary. A display of photographs and memorabilia was available in the Church Hall before and after the service. Read the moving words of the Order of Service here order of service FINAL 23 07 14
On Monday, 4th August 2012 at 7pm, up to a thousand local residents joined the Commemorative Parade from the RAFA Club in Bridge St, led by the Stow Caledonian Pipe Band all the way up Newland Street to the Memorial Gardens, where a short commemorative service was conducted led by the British Legion Chaplain, Rev’d Michael Child. Representatives from the Royal British Legion, the Air Training Corp, Boys Brigade, Scouts, Guides, Brownies and Rainbows, Town and District Councillors, Representatives of the Church, the police, the fire service and St John Ambulance all marched with the parade, which was escorted by two Fire engines. The High Sheriff of Essex, Nick Charrington and the Chairman of Braintree District Council, Councillor Mrs Sue Wilson took the salute outside the Town Hall. Witham’s Town Mayor, Councillor Mrs Janet Money, laid a civic wreath on behalf of the people of Witham, on which was written the words.“Today we commemorate the centenary of the Outbreak of the Great War and the ultimate sacrifice made by the men and women of Witham. In grateful thanks, The People of Witham”