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Last Post sounded for village remembrance

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 12, 2013

By SIMON PARKER

  • John Davis, of the National Coastguard Institution, lays a wreath during the final Boscastle Royal British Legion Remembrance Day PICTURES: DAVID FLOWER

  • Lisa Hannah plays the Last Post after yesterday's two-minute silence in Tintagel, where the local RBL branch has been disbanded

  • The standard bearer of Boscastle RBL leads the parade to the village war memorial

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The solemn and respectful act of laying poppy wreaths at memorials to the fallen has been enacted in communities throughout the South West over recent days.

In the time-honoured way, members of the public joined service personnel past and present to honour those who fought and died in a century of conflicts.

The dignified protocol has changed little since hostilities came to a close at the end of the First World War in November 1918 – and yet in some parts of the country this traditional act of remembrance is now threatened as the old soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Second World War grow fewer.

In one North Cornwall community at the weekend, the few remaining members of Boscastle Royal British Legion lowered their standard for the final time after the branch was forced to close because of a lack of numbers. Nearby Tintagel RBL folded last year and the situation looks similarly bleak for other branches locally.

Standard bearer Peter Hancock led fellow RBL members Mark Smith, Den Taylor, Roy Pickard and Bob Pethick in their last parade to the war memorial on Sunday. Boscastle RBL chairman Bob Pethick, who read out the names of those who gave their lives in two world wars, explained that while the branch had 150 members a generation ago, the current cohort could be counted on two hands. He said the standard would be laid up at Forrabury Church.

"This situation has been a bit of blow but the truth is we just can't carry on," said Mr Pethick. "We only have ten members now and half of them are in their 80s and no longer 'active'. We have tried to attract more people, but in the 15 years I have been a member we've only recruited one new person."

At their October meeting, a senior representative of Cornwall RBL told the Boscastle branch it didn't even have sufficient numbers to legally form a committee and would consequently have to close.

"They say we need at least 15 and realistically we have no hope of achieving that," said Mr Pethick, who served with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in Germany. "So the only option is to wrap it up and take the standard up to Forrabury, where it will stay unless there comes a time when there are enough members to reform the branch. But it would take a miracle.

"It's such a pity because we had another good Remembrance Day this year, with 50 or 60 people present."

The demise of RBL branches in Boscastle and Tintagel follows the announcement in August that the Falmouth group was also being disbanded after 100 years.

Several club members expressed their disappointment and criticised the county branch for not doing enough to preserve it.

But in the organisation's defence, RBL county chairman Steve Lewis said: "For various reasons it has become non-viable to continue the Falmouth RBL branch in its current form. Members have been assured that if they can form a full and viable branch committee at some time in the future, the county will be delighted to assist in re-forming."

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2 comments

  • johngdavis  |  November 12 2013, 4:55PM

    Please please please remember, The National COASTWATCH Institution, is not Coastguard. We are a totally separate body, although we work closely with the Coastguard. The picture depicts John Davis who is station manager for Boscastle National Coastwatch Institution. We are a totally volunteer organisation who, as part of the Search and Rescue Service, provide the only visual watch for those using our coastal waters and coast paths. We are entirely funded by donations we collect from members of the public, and we are always looking for more volunteers. For more information go to http://tinyurl.com/qbfuw8a

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  • johngdavis  |  November 12 2013, 4:50PM

    Please please please remember, The National COASTWATCH Institution, is not Coastguard. We are a totally separate body, although we work closely with the Coastguard. The picture depicts John Davis who is station manager for Boscastle National Coastwatch Institution. We are a totally volunteer organisation who, as part of the Search and Rescue Service, provide the only visual watch for those using our coastal waters and coast paths. We are entirely funded by donations we collect from members of the public, and we are always looking for more volunteers. For more information go to http://tinyurl.com/qbfuw8a

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