Shorncliffe Military Cemetery Vigil, 4th August, 2014

Vigil Commemoration Service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. Picture by Martin Haskell.

Vigil Commemoration Service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. Picture by Martin Haskell.

On the evening of 4th August as dusk was falling, supporters of the Shorncliffe Trust, together with volunteer helpers and many members of the local community, came together for a moving ceremony at the Shorncliffe military cemetery in honour of the fallen soldiers of the First World War.  The Lord-Lieutenant was represented by Ros McCarthy DL.

There are 550 British, Belgian, Chinese and Commonwealth soldiers buried in this quiet and very beautiful hillside graveyard overlooking the sea at Sandgate, and a lighted lantern was placed by each headstone or memorial to shed ‘light in the darkest hour’.   This was done to demonstrate that those who fell during the First World War are not forgotten.

Shorncliffe played a crucial role during this war, with thousands of troops based there before embarking for the Western Front.  It had a specially designed training area for trench warfare, the remains of which are evident today and which the Shorncliffe Trust is working to preserve.

The  evening’s ceremony, marking the centenary of the start of the war, was simple but extremely moving.  Illuminated only by the flickering lanterns and a clear star-lit sky, the silent crowd stood at the central memorial cross, as a wreath was laid by a veteran soldier.  Participants were reminded of the history and heritage of the place where they stood, verses were read and evocative music played in the calm night air.  The last lantern to be lit was by a family whose son had recently fallen in battle.  As the crowd silently dispersed back up the hill, it was felt that this had been an appropriate and memorable way to mark such an important occasion.