We Will Remember Them.
The immortal words in Robert Laurence Binyon’s iconic poem can certainly be attributed to the people of Melton this year.
There have been three major military parades in the town in 2018 and for each of them the streets were lined with those who wanted to pay tribute to members of the armed forces and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.
This was the case again on Sunday, when they stood - 10 deep places - to support the annual Remembrance Day parade, which this year had special significance for falling exactly 100 years after the end of the devastating First World War.
They turned out in force again, just as they had for the event for the RAVC’s centenary in July and the annual Battle of Britain parade, in September, which also marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force.
Remembrance felt special this year, as it did throughout the nation, and every man, woman and child who watched Sunday’s parade was proudly wearing a poppy.
Organisers had also this year fixed 200 large paper poppies to lamp posts throughout the town centre and on them was written the names of the hundreds of Melton servicemen who never came back from the battlefields of the world wars and other conflicts.
Crowds gathered in reverential silence in Sherrard Street and Market Place from 10am and then the strains of the Melton Band could be heard in the distance as the parade began its journey from the Chapel Street car park.
Finally they arrived in a wave of noise and colour, veterans, serving members of the armed forces, civic leaders and standard bearers from the Melton branch of the Royal British Legion and the Keswick House ladies’ group all marching in perfect unison.
Town firefighters took part in the parade, too, with first aiders from St John Ambulance and representatives of local undertakers.
Young people were also well represented with Melton Scouts and Guides and cadets from the Air Training Corps, police and army striding purposefully through Melton.
The streets had been closed with more than 20 marshals provided by representatives of Melton Rotary Club to manage the traffic.
The parade came to a halt at the entrance to Church Street before making their way to St Mary’s Church for the traditional service of remembrance.
As they did so, sunlight burst through the clouds above the church, almost in a symbolic way to signify the guns falling silent with the signing of the Armistice deal a century before.
The historic building was packed to the rafters for the service, which this year saw a giant screen erected to show images of wartime Melton to heighten emotions even further on such a poignant occasion.
A rendition of God Save the Queen signalled the end of the service and the parade reformed again on Burton Street, before processing through the town again via Market Place and Leicester Street.
This time they were joined by members of the Melton-based Defence Animal Training Regiment, astride their magnificent military horses.
They were heading for the Memorial Gardens, on Wilton Road, where wreaths were laid by dignataries and representatives of prominent town organisations.
A large crowd gathered again to watch the ceremony, which involved Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, David Wilson, Mayor of Melton, Councillor Pru Chandler, and Senior Townwarden, John Southerington, among others, placing a wreath by the war memorial stones.
Rev Kevin Ashby, team rector for Melton, gave a short service and Peter Roffey, president of the Melton branch of the Royal British Legion, read the words of the Binyon poem, including the immortal line ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old’.
Heads were bowed in silent contemplation as the haunting strains of the The Last Post were played, accompanied by just the sound of traffic moving up Wilton Road.
That would normally be it for Remembrance Sunday but the special significance of this year’s event meant that an extra ceremony was organised in the early evening in Play Close park, part of a national commemoration called Battle’s Over.
Rev Ashby conducted a short service and the names of Melton’s fallen were read out in an emotional address by the Mayor.
The Last Post was played by bugler Phil Hardy before a beacon was spectacularly lit at 7pm, the flames burning brightly in the darkness and the cold night air.
It was one of hundreds of beacons lit in communities across the UK in tribute to those who gave their lives in the Great War.
The bells then chimed from St Mary’s to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice to round off a day which was a fitting tribute to those Melton servicemen who never came home from foreign battlefields.
It was for Private Norman Watchorn, a Melton plumber killed by a sniper’s bullet in France in 1918, for Private Daniel Reed, another town man whose body was recovered on the Somme in July 1916, and for all the others who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defence of their country.
We will remember them.