Legion leads the way for centenary services, as borough pays respects to the fallen

The historic moment Britain entered the First World War 100 years ago was marked with services of silence and darkness across Dacorum.

A drumhead service in Hemel Hempstead’s Gadebridge Park on Sunday was the town’s main event commemorating the centenary, and was attended by cadet forces, service personnel, civic dignitaries and veterans of other conflicts.

The WW1 drumhead service run by the Royal British Legion in Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead, on Sunday. Harpenden Pipe Band

The WW1 drumhead service run by the Royal British Legion in Gadebridge Park, Hemel Hempstead, on Sunday. Harpenden Pipe Band

The altar for the service itself was created from drums and set up by the cadets, in the event which formed the Hertfordshire Royal British Legion’s official parade for the solemn occasion.

Town MP Mike Penning said: “I was ever so proud of the cadets and veterans in the particular, who stayed still for the whole service in Sunday’s heat. The fusion of the young cadets with the old veterans was quite poignant.”

Similar services of reflection were held across the borough, by both community groups and churches.

As part of a national campaign, people across the country were invited to turn their lights out for one hour in homage to Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s words on the eve of the outbreak of war: ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe – we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.’

Several churches around Dacorum held their own candlelit vigils for the fallen, and many opened their doors throughout the weekend to display information about those from the area who had served in the four-year conflict.

Wreaths were laid at the Boxmoor war memorial on Monday evening after St John’s Church showed the Westminster Abbey service live from BBC2.

Town and county British Legion chairman Peter Gibbons said: “It’s so important that the message is getting out there. As well as what we’ve done as a Legion, it seems from social media that lots of people turned their lights out to reflect on the centenary. I am proud that the legion has taken the lead and been at the forefront of this important event.”

Additionally, Flaunden villagers honoured those from the area who fought in the Great War by placing wreaths on their graves. The six from Flaunden who died in action as well as the 18 men and one woman who served and returned were remembered.

In Tring, 300 people packed into St Peter and St Paul Church for a service of commemoration with a focus on Edward Barber VC, who lived in Tring.

Tring Together’s Vivianne Child said: “Although the 116 names on the War Memorial were brought to mind, the war was made very real by focusing on one person.

“The appreciative congregation heard about Edward’s career, his family, his VC citation and finally about his relatives that still live in the Tring area. “Children from Dundale School led the central part of the service, along with readings from Emily Wood, James Child and Air Marshal Sir Michael Simmons.”

The service was followed by a wreath laying at the War Memorial.

See the slideshow of pictures taken at the events above, which includes a poem written by 14-year-old Georgina Norman of Flaunden.