Many images will stick in the mind this year from the nation's commemoration of the outbreak of WWI, not least the stunning display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London; an extraordinary, moving sight. The Cathedral too has played its part in marking this occasion with a wide range of opportunities for reflection and contemplation. From the special Evensong to commemorate the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand back in June, to the traditional services of Remembrance, the Cathedral has encouraged visitors and friends alike to take time to pause and reflect. There was a day of prayer on August 4th, poetry readings throughout November, art in the form of wire sculptures and music with a joyous concert from the Canadian National Arts Centre Orchestra.
And children have played their part too in the commemoration. A joint project with Salisbury Museum enabled staff from both organisations to work with Bulford Kiwi Primary School as a miltary base school in reflecting on military family life then and now. A striking visual display of crosses and poppies made by Wiltshire schoolchildren also arrived in the Cathedral, each one dedicated to individuals who lost their lives in the Great War from across Wiltshire. And children gathered to hear the amazing story of Winnie, the mascot bear of the Canadian troops brought over to Salisbury Plain in 1914 and the subsequent inspiration for AA Milne.
Names have been read out by the chaplains from over 100 parishes of the fallen in our Diocese and a new Roll of Honour for All Wars collected from visitors right across the world recording personal memories of loved ones in wars from WWI right through to modern day Afghanistan; on the same page one can read names from WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Falklands. To me personally, this list of around 1500 individuals has the been the most moving commemoration of all in that all these losses are still so evidently deeply felt.
The final reflection is inspired by the Christmas Day truce of December 1914, so memorably performed as a new commission entitled 'No Man's Land' in the cloisters as part of the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival back in May. We are grateful to Mr Bryan Darby for his poem entitled 'the Spirit of Christmas' (click here to read The_Spirit_of_Christmas.pdf ) as we move through December towards that anniversary as a reminder of the peace those soldiers shared.
Sarah Rickett, Director of Learning and Outreach