Monday, 11 December 2017

Carols from the Front

On Saturday afternoon I went up to Cusop Church for a carol service with a difference. Organised by Kelvyn Jenkins of the British Legion, it was themed around the First World War, to raise awareness and money for the proposed statue of Herefordshire's only winner of the VC, Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis, who died in September 1918.
On the way into church, we passed several people in First World War uniforms, including one German officer.
Inside, the church quickly filled up until it was standing room only.
There was a small brass band up near the altar, which had come all the way from South Wales for the occasion, and the St Andrews Singers were also there.
Rev Jane Rogers began the service with a prayer, followed by Once in Royal David's City - we were singing some of my favourite carols throughout the service - In the Bleak Midwinter, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and finishing up with Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In the middle of the service the St Andrews Singers sang Silent Night in English and German, which I thought was a nice touch.
Between these were some quite sombre readings. Rev Charlesworth read a poem called Christmas in the Trenches, and talked about the terrible loss of life. The poet said something along the lines of - at Christmas, the soldiers at the Front were not encountering the innocent baby in the manger but Christ in agony, crowned with thorns.
Other poems were the famous Flanders Field, and Rudyard Kipling's poem My Boy Jack, written after his son died on the Western Front, after he had been instrumental in getting Jack a commission even though he was medically unfit because of his bad eyesight.
The second half of the service focussed on Lance Corporal Lewis, with a poem about him, the VC citation describing what he had done (singlehandedly taking out a machine gun nest and taking the surviving German soldiers prisoner, thus enabling his battalion to advance), and Dawn Lewis, the Lance Corporal's great niece, said a few words.
After that, Captain Lyndon Davies was supposed to sing White Christmas as a solo, but first he said he'd been asked to sing something else - Keep the Home Fires Burning, which everyone joined in at the chorus, and everyone joined in with White Christmas, too. He said he'd served in Afghanistan over Christmas, at Camp Bastion, so he knew exactly what it was like to be serving in a war, far from home, at Christmas.
At the back of the church, after the carols, there was tea, mulled wine, and mince pies, provided by the Co-op and the Swan Hotel, and the opportunity to see the artist's sketches of what the statue will look like. Part of the display also showed a pub in Neath which has been named the Allan Leonard Lewis - before he joined up, he worked in Neath for the GWR.

In the run up to Christmas at Cusop, there will also be a Carols and Candles service on Sunday 17th December at 4pm, suitable for young families, and on Christmas Day there will be a Family Communion led by Bishop Michael Westall.

No comments: