THE NAMES of every man from Abingdon who went to fight in the Great War – more than 1,300 – were read out in a single ceremony last night.
Beginning at 6.30pm, town residents from every walk of life – footballers, firefighters business owners and even an Oxford Mail reporter – took it in turns to read 25 names each.
The commemoration, held in the candlelit quiet of St Helen’s church in St Helen’s Wharf, lasted some three hours.
The Abingdon Roll of Service was originally compiled by the North Berks Herald, predecessor to the Mail’s sister paper the Abingdon Herald.
Afterwards, the congregation proceeded to the town’s cenotaph to hold a candlelight vigil until the last post was sounded at 11pm.
The ceremony was organised by Abingdon town councillor and Vale of White Horse District Council chairman Mike Badcock.
He said: “Considering the time and effort the people of Abingdon took in 1919 to ensure that the Roll of Service was correctly completed, including the efforts of the North Berks Herald, it seemed appropriate that we properly remember all of those who served in the Great War.
“The simple reading of all the names of those Abingdonians who served throughout the world will fulfil that debt of honour to those who compiled the list that we would not forget.
“It was a simple, respectful commemoration of those who served their town and country, with the people of the town playing the major part in the commemoration.”
The event was attended by Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, and two soldiers from Abingdon’s Dalton Barracks.
The reading of the names was begun by town mayor Angela Lawrence, who also read an extract from Great War poet Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy’s Two Worlds.
She said: “This was a war that should never have happened, but all these brave people – not just soldiers – went into the war for the sake of our country and to protect those left behind.
“We need to remember that and honour that. It wasn’t a celebration, it was a commemoration and an honouring.”
Oxford Mail reporter Pete Hughes was invited to represent the North Berks Herald and read out 25 names of the fallen.
He said: “The First World War has never felt so real to me as when I was reading out the names of men who, almost within living memory, left Abingdon to risk their lives for this country.
“I was honoured that I was asked to take part in a ceremony which will never happen again to mark a war the likes of which will, hopefully, never happen again.”
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