St Andrews Church Chinnor ‘Lights Out’ Service - From the perspective of a 16 year old in 2014
St Andrews Church ‘Lights Out’ Service was held on Monday the 4th August 2014 to commemorate the start of the First World War. At that service the British Legion Address was given by Libby Moody a 16 years old History Student - a remarkable speech written and presented by herself; we would like to share this with all:
“I am a child of the 21st century. I am addicted to TV, unashamedly clingy to my laptop and usually have square eyes from staring at my phone for too long. As technology has grown and evolved, so have I. When I look back at the brick phones that were the pioneer of their day, I think, “Wow! How did the iphone evolve from that?” I got the exact same feeling, when I was looking back at my ancestors and writing this speech. How did I evolve to be a TV junkie that can’t survive without her phone and screams at a spider, when my ancestors had to face the hammering noise of shelling, the sight of dying and dead men littering the trenches and the feeling of being torn away from their loved ones knowing they may never return home.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain entered one of the costliest conflicts in history – the First World War. The war did not end until 11th November 1918 – Armistice Day; However, as a pupil of history myself, I am aware that the First World War’s flawed peace settlement under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles led indirectly twenty years later to the Second World War; another huge sacrifice of mankind.
Over a million men and women lost their lives in the service of the British Empire during the First World War, from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the Indian sub-continent. Wealthy and aristocratic families were not immune and suffered proportionately greater losses, as did the French on whose soil much of the war was fought. Millions more were maimed and scarred either physically or mentally.
Nearly everyone in this country has an ancestor directly affected by the First World War and all of us live with its effects today. On Chinnor’s War Memorial, there are the names of those who perished in the First War, and the Second War. Many family names are repeated, in one case 4 times. What unimaginable grief must have coursed through so many small, close-knit communities like ours in Chinnor. The scale and indiscriminate nature of the losses meant that across thousands of UK communities there were only 53 so-called ‘Thankful Parishes’ that did not lose any men or women at all.
My great grandfather, Harry Jennings, a Royal Marine fought at Gallipoli in 1915 and subsequently on the Somme in 1917. Thankfully, he came home but - as my Nana said - he would never talk about it and, due to his experiences, he was never the same man again. However, his future wife’s brother, Fred Squires, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was not so fortunate ; he died of his wounds in a casualty clearing station during the Battle of Paschendale in 1917. I am often reminded of Fred, as his name lives on with my little brother Christopher Francis Squires Moody.
Three years ago, I was moved when I visited Fred’s tranquil grave immaculately maintained in a small cemetery behind a row of unremarkable back gardens in Belgium. I had a group of friends with me at the time, and whilst I was placing a cross by Fred’s grave they decided to explore the graveyard. After getting back onto the coach to continue the rest of our trip, one of the girls turned to me and told me she had found a soldier with the same surname as her, though it couldn’t possibly be an ancestor of hers as she did not have any family die in the war. I replied that she must have had a relation that at least fought in the war as it was virtually impossible otherwise. A few weeks later she came up to me and told me that her father and her had researched her family tree, and as it turns out, the name on the gravestone turned out to be her ancestor. She told me “It really brought it home, how personal the war is not just to communities but to people. I feel so proud to be related to someone that showed such courage and bravery.” Which is something I think every time this time of year come around.
Though it seems at times, like the war will always be remembered as a horrific slaughter of innocent human lives, there were a few, but significant positives to come out of it as a result. The fields of antiseptics, prosthetic limbs, surgery and plastic surgery were greatly improved, so that many lives could be saved and improved. The first blood bank was set up as a result of scientists working tirelessly to save more lives, and as a result are saving lives today, a hundred years on from when their work was first used. Most importantly, the wars and sacrifice of our men secured a future for the future generations of Britain, America and the whole of Europe.
As we come together in commemoration of events a century ago, we should salute their loyalty and bravery and never, ever forget their sacrifice”
Libby Moody aged 16