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At 10pm on the evening of the 4th August 2014 about 40 people gathered around the old village cross in the churchyard at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Sessay. It was a beautiful summers evening, with a clear sky, balmy atmosphere and owls hooting quietly overhead.

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Introduction  Janet Ratcliffe

Two years ago we tried to imagine life in Sessay a hundred years ago and tried to re-create an Edwardian garden party based on a group of black and white photographs. We had a most enjoyable time, as I am sure most of the people in the photographs appeared to be doing. The 4 August 1914 was a Bank Holiday and many, many people will have learnt of the outbreak of war at the end of such a happy summers day. I have often thought and wondered what happened to that sea of faces that peers out of our collection of photographs in the following four long years.

We know they cannot have imagined what was to come, because even now a hundred years later we are still trying to understand what has been variously called The First World War, The Great War, and the war to end all wars. But as a nation we decided along time ago that we would not forget the bravery and sacrifices made by that generation of men and women, and we would remember them.

So tonight on the 100 anniversary of that terrible moment in time let us think about the 360 people who lived in Sessay and how their lives were about to change. 53 men went to war, many volunteered almost immediately, 48 survived, but not unscathed, few ever spoke of their experiences, Harry Jeffray’s only comment was “If that’s war I want nothing to do with it”.

5 did not return home and we think especially of them tonight.

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Alan Yuill  read  The Send Off by Wilfred Owen.


Sue Thorne spoke and lit a candle.


The first to die was Lieutenant Philip Francis Payne – Gallwey, age 21, on 30 October 1914 at Messines Ridge. He is well remembered in the beautiful stained glass window in our church, at his old school West Downs, on the Chirk War memorial and on the Menin Gate at Ypres, which of course therefore means he has no known grave, but we remember him.

Fred Baines, nephew of Joseph and Walter spoke and lit two candles

Joseph Mitchell Baines died “at home” on the 5 April 1916 while training as a rifleman with the 21st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps, from sickness or otherwise is not known, he is buried in our churchyard and we remember him.

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Walter Baines, older brother to Joseph joined the 4th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment. On the 27 October1917 he was killed age 30 and is buried in Grevillier Village Cemetery in Northern France and we remember him.

Louise Broom spoke and lit a candle

Archibald Smith, there were several men of this name who fought in the war and it has not been possible to trace him, perhaps he was a labourer from elsewhere working in the village, but we still remember him.

Mark Hillmer spoke and lit a candle

George Robinson 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment saw active service in Gallipoli and then Egypt and Palestine. He died from wounds or sickness, we do not know on the 12 November 1918, one day after the armistice. He is buried in the Deir El Belah War Cemetery, Palestine, 16 kilometers east of Egypt and 20 kilometers south west of Gaza. It is impossible to visit the cemetery at present and part of it has been damaged in the recent conflict. We remember him and all the people of that troubled region and hope for peace for them and through out the world. 

[By coincidence the Channel 4 News report on the conflict in Gaza for that evening came from the cemetery where George Robinson is buried, the irony of this I found so sad, so much for the war to end all wars.]

A minutes quiet.

About ten people then came forward to remember family members and spoke about what had happened to them and to light a candle in remembrance.

The sense of loss echoed down the century.

Ann Bowes read   In Flanders Fields John McCrae.

Sue Thorne invited another moment of reflection, then turned to leave signifying the end of the remembrance and we left in silence.

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The candles flickered out one by one, just as all those lives had done and we left with our own thoughts of rememberance and hopes for peace today. In our own small quiet way we took part in a national event and remembered the soldiers from the village who did not return from the war, relatives who were lost and the people of this country as they lived through the terrible four years that ended the 19th century and began the 20th.

We did not forget.



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