A veteran lays a wreath and contemplates in silence (pic Stuart Williams)

A Sunday to Remember in Bloxwich

Veterans, cadets and local groups march behind the standards to All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Veterans, cadets and local groups march behind the standards to All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)

This year’s Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich was indeed one to remember, mostly for all the right reasons – but was also an event dogged by confusion and controversy.

Most importantly, the local community came together in their hundreds once again as they have done since the 1920s, to remember and honour in silence and in song those fallen in war and conflict, especially local servicemen and women and the other victims of war – and to hope for that peace which is the right of all but which is so rarely found in this world.

It has to be said, however, that the day was sadly somewhat tarnished by the controversy over the cancellation of the traditional High Street parade of veterans and local groups, including youth groups, who enthusiastically but thoughtfully gather to march each year.

The band leads the somewhat curtailed Bloxwich Remembrance parade past the grave of Bloxwich rebel Samuel Wilks (pic Stuart Williams)
The band leads the somewhat curtailed Bloxwich Remembrance parade past the grave of Bloxwich rebel Samuel Wilks (pic Stuart Williams)
Conspiracy theories and confusion

Confusion over the reasons behind the parade’s cancellation resulted in understandably angry but sometimes, it has to be said, ill-informed mutterings on local social media and on the streets of Bloxwich and district. Some of that was to be expected, as information was at first scarce and communication from organisers who were desperately trying to rescue the event and other official channels was sometimes confused. But then the publicising of the Bloxwich event has never been very good and always last minute, something which needs to be rectified in future.

No Legion, no parade

Variously blaming Walsall Council, local councilors, Walsall Police and others, these stirrings mostly missed the main reason why the parade was cancelled and re-scheduled as a short march through the grounds of All Saints Church. This was, as was widely reported in the Bloxwich Telegraph, primarily down to the demise of the Bloxwich branch of the Royal British Legion, presumably due to insufficient local support, in 2013.  This meant that, due to a combination of health and safety law and official red tape, as well as perfectly reasonable safety concerns, together with the unwillingness of the Royal British Legion to extend insurance for the march without a local branch, the usual parade could not go ahead.

Veterans and cadets march behind the standards to enter All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Veterans and cadets march behind the standards to enter All Saints Church (pic Stuart Williams)
Police cuts

Overshadowing this primary problem was the issue of nationwide police cuts due to our national Conservative government’s ‘austerity’ policies, something which has received a massive amount of media coverage in recent weeks. Even had there been a branch of the Legion to insure and organise a parade, our sources informed us,  it would almost certainly have been cut back due to there being half as many police available to marshal road closures as last year. This is a situation likely to get worse next year.

All Saints Church was packed to the rafters for the reading of names and service of Remembrance (pic Stuart Williams)
All Saints Church was packed to the rafters for the reading of names and service of Remembrance (pic Stuart Williams)
The Bloxwich Royal British Legion must be reformed

So, it is absolutely essential that a new branch of the Royal British Legion be formed in Bloxwich, so that local veterans may be supported locally, so that funds may contnue to be raised for the charity, and  so that Bloxwich people may see the return of their traditional Remembrance Sunday parade.

Thankfully, local interest in forming such a branch is already taking shape, and anyone who is interested in helping and taking part is invited to contact the Legion’s local contact, Mr Bill Griffiths, by telephoning  07944869687 or 01922 492064.

The future

The present police cuts and the prospect of more of the same next year may call the parade’s future  into question again, even if, as is hoped, a new branch of the Legion rises phoenix-like in Bloxwich in time for Remembrance Sunday 2016. It looks like any future organisers will have to fund and organise at least part of the traffic management themselves, due to reduced numbers of police available.

Between now and then, Bloxwich people will really have to ‘step up to the plate’ and help.  After all, Remembrance is for life, not just Remembrance Sunday.

The reading of the names of the Fallen (pic Stuart Williams)
The reading of the names of the Fallen (pic Stuart Williams)
Bloxwich can still be proud

But whatever happens next year, Bloxwich can at least be proud that disaster was largely averted this year by the hard work of public-spirited local councillors, All Saints Church and representatives of other churches, many local groups and police – and not least the veterans themselves – who came together with other local people to organise a shortened march through the church grounds and a massively well-supported Service of Remembrance within the church itself.

Not only that, thanks should also be offered to those many local people who, whether unable to get into the church or determined, as Bloxwich folk often are, to stand up for Bloxwich and for tradition, still gathered round the Bloxwich War Memorial to pay their respects as in days gone by.

Hopefully, everyone who turned out in church or on the streets of Bloxwich on Sunday last will actively support the future of the Royal British Legion and Remembrance in Bloxwich as well as looking to the past  – otherwise it may have no future!

Paying tribute at Bloxwich War Memorial -- lest we forget... (pic Stuart Williams)
Paying tribute at Bloxwich War Memorial — lest we forget… (pic Stuart Williams)

 

To view larger versions of the above photographs, and for more pictures of the day by Stuart Williams, follow this link to a Flickr photo album.

For more background to this event, see our previous reports.

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