(Photograph by Ash Mills: The Master Gunner St James Park, Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory KBE CB begins the reading of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Roll of Honour)
On Friday, 2 November 2018, members of the Royal Regiment of Artillery (RA) past and present began a nine-day commemoration to honour all 49,076 of their fallen comrade from World War 1. The reading, which took place in the Cathedral's Morning Chapel, marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and was the first of a series of memorial readings taking in various locations across the world.
The Master Gunner St James Park, Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory KBE CB, had the privilege of reading the first names. He was followed by 13 other regular, reserve and retired members of the Regiment. It believed that when all the readings across the world are completed on Sunday 11 November, it will be the first time the Royal Artillery Roll of Honour has been read out in its entirety.
Speaking at the Cathedral Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory said:
“It was hugely moving as I started to read the first of the 49,076 names of individuals on the Roll of Honour. One remembers each one is a son, brother, husband, each person is an individual, as you read those names you realise the scale of the sacrifice. I found it extremely humbling.”
The man behind the moving commemoration was retired Lieutenant Colonel Andy Astbury, who was on hand to witness the event in the cathedral. Lt. Col Astbury said:
“Last summer I arranged to digitize the Roll of Honour, and from that grew the project to read out the names, just as is done at any local village War Memorial service on Remembrance Sunday. This is obviously a slightly bigger challenge. I’m proud to do it and be part of the group that is doing it. Having had my time in the Army, I lost some soldiers on operations and in some ways, one remembers them as well at the same time."
The poignant words ‘See to it ye that come after, that their names be not forgotten’, which were said at the changeover of each reader, were originally used by HRH The Duke of Connaught when he unveiled the Royal Artillery War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London in 1925. The final reading of those who died on November 11th 1918 will conclude at that memorial on Remembrance Day, where a copy of the Roll is buried.
The youngest of the readers was Lance Bombardier Ryan Mason. It was an event he will not forget quickly:
“This was an impressive location, and the fact that this will be the first time the full Roll has been read out it in some 100 years is a very special occasion. As the most junior person to be asked to be part of this I was very honoured.”
The reading started with a blessing by Padre Tom Hiney, followed by the Last Post played by Staff Sergeant Marc Thompson a trumpeter from Lancashire Artillery Volunteers.