Remembrance is often difficult without direct memories or those passed on through family. Men who died in war were young and so are a dead-end on their family tree diagram. Many were never fathers, grandfathers or great grandfathers with photos and prized possessions passed through the family to keep them alive in the hearts of future generations. Memories of them 100 years on are now faded in the family histories.
Taking Tommy on his travels made these brave soldiers more alive to us, as ringers we had an insight into a small aspect of their lives. We know the hard work, dedication, attention to detail and reliability needed to be part of a group of ringers; how team work is essential and that we are an extended family.
Five towers in our district lost ringers. At each tower we had open ringing on tower bells or handbells followed by a silence to remember and then tolling of the tenor for the age of the ringer.
Our tour started at Yateley where we remembered Lance Sergeant Charles Albert Butler, aged 21. Ringing included rounds, rounds and call changes Grandsire and Plain Bob triples. The Yateley Society put on a display on the village green just outside the church which encouraged the general public to come and find out about ringing and see the ringers in action.
Stratfield Saye is a lovely little church on the Stratfield Estate. No ringing is allowed on the bells as the tower is now too weak. However, the vicar took us up to see the bells and we were able to sound each individual bell with a hammer (an ‘interesting’ tuning of a ring of 5 bells).
Five ringers were lost from this church: Lance Corporal Joseph Binge (20); Private Thomas William Binge(22);Private Albert George Broadhurst (24); Sapper Charles Kersley (30) and Private John Robert Series ( age unknown so we tolled the tenor 26 times).
Standing where our lost Tommies would have stood in the ringing room looking at the same oak bracing beams, brick walls and circle of five ropes was a poignant moment. Probably this was the whole band that had perished and that these men had possibly all worked on the estate or in the village.
At the chancel crossing we rang handbells ,mainly rounds with each person having a single bell.
The vicars’ young grandson, as well as Mary Oliver who rang at St Michael’s in Basingstoke many years ago also joined in.
The churchyard has mature trees that certainly would have been growing 100 years ago giving us a further connection to the past. We all sat together between these trees and ate a picnic, then tolled the tenor handbell for each of lost from the ringing family.
Next stop was Bramley. Here the stone work of the tower window had disintegrated and so no ringing of the tower bells was allowed as masonry falling onto the ringers was a real possibility. Some Bramley ringers joined us and we rang handbells in memory of Private Alec William Symonds (21). Interestingly the plaque in the church ranked him as Corporal.
Deane is a tiny village to the west of Basingstoke. The church has structural problems so ringing is generally restricted to special occasions and individual pieces of ringing are limited to about ten minutes in duration. The order of the bells in some changes makes them a little tricky to strike at times as tower movement makes some of the bells drop.
Two ringers from the same family were lost from this band. I was given the privilege of tolling the tenor for the life of Private Alfred Kirby aged 25 (about the same age as my youngest, Greg, is now and who is also a ringer) . Also remembered was Private Frank Kirby (34)
Our last visit of the day was to Dummer to remember Rifleman Royston Bishop(24)
We had some lovely ringing on the 5 bells. We were very grateful to members of the Dummer band who provided us with much needed refreshments.
The clear statue of Tommy travelled with us those and stood amongst us at each tower and gave us an echo of our lost members.
Photos provided by Graham Sargent and Gary Marsh.
Videos provided by Gary Marsh.