Remembrance is part of modern British life, culture and heritage. Remembrance Day on 11 November is when millions of people stop what they are doing and observe a Two Minute Silence at 11 o’clock. This commemorates the exact moment the First World War ended in 1918 – on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The first Remembrance Day in Britain and the Commonwealth was held in 1919.
First World War Memorials
It is not known exactly how many First World War memorials there are, but there are certainly tens of thousands throughout Britain. No area of our heritage is more poignant than war memorials. They are found everywhere and link the tragic impact of the First World War with local communities today.
First World War memorials take a variety of forms. In Rutland, as in other counties, the most familiar are the memorial crosses found in towns and villages and the memorial tablets in churches.
The photograph above shows ex-Service men and local Army units assembled in the Market Square on 6 April 1922 for the special parade which was part of the ceremony for the unveiling of the Oakham War Memorial.
Members of A Squadron Leicestershire Yeomanry and the local platoons of B Company 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment were at the front. The ex-Servicemen (of which there were around 180), wearing their medals and decorations, were next in the parade. The rear was brought up by the Oakham School O.T.C. with their rifles and side-arms.
This photograph shows the unveiling ceremony of the Exton and Whitwell War Memorial which took place on Wednesday 4 October 1922. The Bishop of Nottingham performed the blessing and the Viscount Campden, eldest son of Lord and Lady Gainsborough, carried out the unveiling.
Wartime casualties have also been commemorated in many other ways. At Market Overton the memorial takes the form of a church lichgate, at Exton there are Gardens of Remembrance and at Braunston Church there are stained-glass windows.
To find out about the Memorial in Oakham Castle to the men of the Leicestershire Yeomanry who fell in the First World War, please visit our sister website: https://www.oakhamcastle.org/remembrance
A range of ‘Memorial’ buildings were also constructed around Rutland. In Oakham these took the form of the Rutland Memorial Cottage Hospital and the War Memorial Institute. War Memorial Chapels were erected at both Oakham and Uppingham Schools. In several villages, including Braunston and Edith Weston, Memorial Village Halls dedicated to the memory of those from the parish who had been killed in the war were built.
Rutland Memorial Hospital
The Rutland Memorial Cottage Hospital in Oakham was built as a memorial to the local men who lost their lives during the First World War. The actual scheme to build the hospital was set in motion at a meeting held at the Victoria Hall in Oakham on 28 June 1920. However, owing to the high cost of building, the project was put on hold until December 1922.
The designs for the hospital were produced by Webb and Gray (architects and surveyors based in Dudley). The contract for the building work was awarded to Higgs and Son of Oakham. The total cost of the building and fittings was around £8,000 (approximately £460,000 today). The land, on Cold Overton Road, was given by Lord Lonsdale. The site was thought perfect as it was on high ground, on the outskirts of town. It was protected from the noise of the station by houses, and on every other side it was surrounded by countryside.
Once the scheme was launched, it was well supported throughout the county. Many subscriptions, large and small were forthcoming. Also, countless events, including bazaars, dances and whist drives, were successfully held to raise funds. These included a grand bazaar at Victoria Hall in November 1923 which raised nearly £1000 over two days. The necessary money was quickly collected and the hospital was able to open free of debt.
The official opening ceremony took place on Thursday 19 February 1925 with the hospital open for patients from Thursday 26 February 1925.
The Story of the Poppy
The distinctive red poppy has a long association with Remembrance Day. It has become a potent symbol of the great losses suffered during past wars.
The scarlet corn poppy (popaver rhoeas) was a common flower on the Western Front. It grows naturally in conditions of disturbed earth and was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields.
The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, he was inspired by the sight of the poppies to write the now famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.
McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make handmade red fabric poppies which were brought to England by a French lady, Anna Guerin. The Royal British Legion, formed in 1921, adopted the poppy as the symbol of remembrance and for their ‘Poppy Appeal’.
The first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ in 1921 raised over £106,000, a small fortune at the time. The following year, a poppy making factory was set up by Major George Howson MC, giving jobs to disabled former servicemen.