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Service of Thanksgiving

The 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance, Westminster Abbey 10th December 2007

At 1130 am a small groups of Bowyers met in the Sanctuary by the Westminster School memorial to those who fell in the Crimea War, overlooked by the Hawkesmore Towers of Westminster Abbey. While waiting to enter the Abbey we watched the soldiers of the Second Battalion the Mercian Regiment (the Worcester and Foresters) Regiment arrive led by their Mascot, Derby.

The band of the Scot's Guards played as we entered by the Great West door. We walked towards the High Alter where we were directed to our seats in the North Transept where we sat quietly waiting for the service of thanksgiving and remembrance to begin.

The service opened with the singing of "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer," during which the Collegiate procession entered and took their places in the Quire and Sacrarium. Once everyone was in place the Queen's and Regimental Colour were borne through the Abbey, presented and placed beside the High Altar as the band played the Regimental Slow march "Stand Firm, Strike Hard".

The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall then read the 2nd Mercian Regimental Collect. Followed by a short Address of Bidding., he reminded all that this was a service of thanksgiving for the return of the Battalion from their tour of Duty in Afghanistan and remembrance for those who did not return. He went on to say that of the 3,000 memorials in the Abbey, where most of our sovereigns since 1066 had been crowned and many buried, many were to distinguished sailors, soldiers and airmen. The most significant memorial was however to the Unknown Warrior, who was buried at the entrance to the Abbey after a full State Funeral. Thus the Abbey was a suitable place for this act of Remembrance.

The first lesson was then read by the Regimental Sergeant Major after this the Psalm was sung beautifully by the Choir followed by the second lesson read by the Commanding Officer. This was followed by the Congregation singing "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind".

The Regimental Chaplain then gave the address. He began by saying that the loss of the nine members of the Regiment in Afghanistan to their parents, wives, girlfriends must be unimaginable. Using the references in the First Lesson, which was very sombre, likening the human body to a fragile earthenware jar or in to-days terms as a plastic throw away cup it was important to have hope for the future. He then turned to the example of the Centurion from Capernaum, of the second lesson, and his servant. He was a foreigner, a powerful soldier in body and status he had command of soldiers and personal servants and slaves but he was also a compassionate man. The Chaplain asked that we remember those who died as fit healthy men who like the Centurion did their duty and did not give their lives in vain.

The Choir then sang the Anthem "Greater Love hath no Man" during which nine candles were carried, by a group of comrades representing all ranks of the Battalion, first to the grave of the unknown warrior, where the Commanding Officer laid a wreath of poppies.

The Act of Remembrance followed during which the names of the Fallen:

Lance Corporal Paul Sandford
Drummer Thomas Wright
Captain Sean Dolan
Private Damian Wright
Private Ben Ford
Sergeant Craig Brelsford
Private Johan Botha
Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman
Private Brian Tuncliffe

were read out to solemn music and the nine memorial candles were carried to the high altar.

The Choir then sang Laurence Binyon's words For the Fallen:

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.

The Last Post and Reveille played on the trumpet then followed, followed by the hymn "O Come, O come Emmanuel!" After which their were prayers of intercession concluding with the Lord's Prayer. The final hymn "Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son," was sung followed by the blessing and the National Anthem.

All agreed that this was a very moving occasion and as the Abbey bells were ringing we thought of those who had died hopefully not in vain.

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