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Anger as village curate starts Remembrance service early
AT THE eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, millions of people across the country stopped to remember those who lost their lives in conflict.
But not in Eynsham, where the traditional two minutes’ silence was held 10 minutes early on Sunday. Curate the Rev John Underwood, who led the service at St Leonard’s Church, made the decision to hold the two minutes’ silence at the war memorial in Market Square early because it was too cold.
Grandfather George Roberts, 68, from Eynsham, said he arrived with others from a service at the Eynsham Baptist Church as the roll of honour was being read out.
He told the Oxford Mail: “Everybody was flabbergasted. We didn’t mind waiting in the cold. My father died because of the war and that two minutes’ silence at 11am should have been at 11am, not at 10 to 11am.”
Mr Roberts’ father Thomas served in the Second World War as an army private and died of pneumonia caused by his service in the war at the age of 59.
Mr Roberts called for an apology from the church and said: “None of us could have believed what had happened, it was a shambles.”
Villager Phillip Whittaker, 72, a member of the Eynsham branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “I cannot understand why it was done. It is a shame.”
But RBL branch chairman Mike Stephens, said: “The curate running the service had gone to very great lengths to be there at 11am.
“He took a sensible decision on a cold day. The two minutes’ silence held was very respectful.”
Mr Underwood said: “The problem is it is always a matter of timing. This is the first time we attempted to organise the service before 11am to then come out and hold the two minutes silence outside by the war memorial and hopefully link in with people who don’t go to church.
“In this case we were running early and it is the first time we planned it, so we had no idea how long it would take for the church to empty outside.
“Everything ran smoothly and we were outside at 20 to. We were outside in the cold with 90-plus sitting in chairs in the biting cold with 100 uniformed members ranging from the age of six in thin uniforms.
“There is no way that I could ask people to hang around for 10 minutes in that cold.
“I did say we are running early, does anybody object if we go ahead with the roll of honour? And nobody dissented that I heard, so we went ahead.”
The service was attended by local Scouts, Guides, police, the fire brigade and British Legion members. The Rev Morey Andrews, vicar at St Leonard’s Church, said: “We are sorry for the upset it has caused.
“The decision to have the two minutes’ silence early was for the younger children and the elderly.
“The decision was made for good reasons and it has upset some of the villagers, and we send our apologies.
“But I have had lots of emails supporting the decision. We have to remember the bigger picture of those who have given their lives in conflict.”
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