At the end of World War One the people of Ilfracombe, Devon, England got together to remember the brave men and women who gave up their lives to defend their families and their country. The whole town turned out to create a special photograph on the side of Capstone Hill overlooking the town spelling out the word ‘PEACE‘. A simple yet poignant act in memory of the brave volunteers who left the town in the first world war but did not return.
On the 100 year anniversary of the end of the ‘Great War‘ the descendants of those residents decided to recreate that same photograph as part of their remembrance commemorations.
Ilfracombe Living Letter
We read about the Ilfracombe Living Letter recreation a week or so ago and thought it was a wonderful way of remembering those that were lost a century ago in the name of freedom. As we were visiting Jo’s brother and sister-in-law, Jon and Julie, in neighbouring Georgeham it seemed a perfect opportunity to support and be part of a unique remembrance event.
Unfortunately the Saturday morning weather was abysmal and we left in driving rain and heavy winds wondering if the event would be well supported or even take place. Leaving the car in a virtually empty car-park just one hour before the photo was due to be taken we gazed up at the completely deserted Capstone Hill doubting if we even had the right day! All we could see was the painted outlines of the letters. There was no-one to be seen, absolutely no-one!
With time in hand we detoured to the harbour and a few shops hoping that a few others might turn out. Slightly concerned we headed back to the hill just half an hour prior to the scheduled photograph to find a completely different scene. The rain had stopped, the sun was out, and hundreds of people had appeared from all over town. Incredible. The outlines of the letters on the grass called so we headed across to find a spot.
The bottom of the ‘E‘ seemed a good place as we were expecting a couple of Jon and Julies friends and as you can see it wasn’t that busy yet. Within minutes though the letters started filling up and we began to appreciate the importance of the event.
Our friends Andy and Claire arrived as the whole crowd came together as one massive community and people laughed and chatted as the letters almost completely filled up. It was fabulous to be part of something so unique and to feel the community spirit building as everyone bound together for one important moment of commemorative remembrance. People dressed in WWI soldiers uniforms and nurses mingled as we all got ready for the big moment.
One Hundred Years
As we stood there shoulder to shoulder in 2018 our thoughts turned back to how the residents of the same town would have felt a century before. Virtually every single person would have been touched by the war and lost someone close to them. It was a different time of course and no-one here could even hope to understand what it must have been like but we did feel close for a moment or two and experienced a real connection to the past.
The town crier informed us all that the photo was about to be taken and the crowd quietened as thoughts of that lost generation filled our minds. It may have been fun to be part of but it felt truly humbling and historic as we all stood together in an act of commemoration and remembrance.
My thoughts turned to my grandfather who had fought at the battle of the Somme and my fading memories of him. It wasn’t just those that had fallen that we were remembering or course, it was also those that returned.
Someone was definitely watching over us as the sun came out and lit up the side of ‘Capstone Hill‘. The photos were over pretty quickly and the crowd began to descent the slippery grass bank but people were talking to each other and communicating as if we all realised we had been involved in something a bit special.
Ilfracombe Living Letters
It was amazing how quickly the crowd dispersed with families either heading home or into one of the myriad of coffee shops in the town. We set off for the car and decided to go to a nearby beach for a bit of a walk. It had been a marvellous experience for everyone, one that we would never forget.
How lucky were we that we had been given the chance to participate in something so special?
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.