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Viewpoint from Revd Canon Nick Garrard 09/11/2018

NICK GARRARDRevd Canon Nick Garrard

Rector of the Broadside Benefice (Ranworth with Panxworth, South Walsham and Upton and Fishley, Woodbastwick)


as published in the Yarmouth Mercury

 

Above the photocopier in the corner of my study hangs Frank Sturch’s dead man’s penny. I should probably explain, starting with Frank. He was a Rifleman in the 13th Battalion, Rifle Regiment, killed in the Battle of the Somme on 14th November 1916. He has no known grave but his name is carved on one of the piers of the Memorial to the Missing in Thiepval. I have seen it there

 
After the war, his family were sent a bronze plaque with his name cast on it, together with a printed scroll from Buckingham Palace. The message on the scroll expressed the King’s gratitude for a life ‘given for others in the Great War’.  The plaque shows the figure of Britannia holding a wreath and is one of 1,335,000 made after the war. It quickly gained the nickname ‘dead man’s penny’ because it resembled the reverse of an old penny
 
Why does it hang on my study wall? It came from Cousin Winnie. Winnie came from a poor household and was sent to grow up in my grandmother’s better-off family in Edwardian Southend-on-Sea. Frank was Winnie’s cousin. After his grieving parents died, the framed scroll and dead man’s penny were left to her. I remember seeing them on the wall of Winnie’s bungalow when I visited as a teenager. She seemed sad when I asked her about Frank. I think he had been very young. When Cousin Winnie died, Frank’s penny and scroll came to me. You may have seen a plaque like Frank’s, or even have one on display in your house bearing another name. Sadly, they are not scarce. Each one bears witness to a unique life lost over a century ago
 
Remembrance Sunday this year marks the centenary of the Armistice. At 11am on 11th November 1918, the guns fell silent as the First World War began to end. It concluded with the Treaty of Versailles the following year, but the Great War still casts a long shadow over our world. Much would be gained in the century that followed, but in brown leather frames on mantlepieces and immaculately kept war cemeteries, the cost has been measured, generation after generation
 
On this Remembrance Sunday may I invite you to be still at 11am and give thanks, wherever you are. Perhaps you will have a ‘Frank’ to think of the needs of ex-servicewomen and men and their families in our day
 


 

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