Twenty-four members of the Australian Flying Corps are buried in Leighterton cemetery: flying instructors, cadets and ground crew. All except one died in 1918-1919 during flight training, or of other causes. In commemoration on 24 April 2016 The Royal British Legion Gloucestershire County held its annual ANZAC Day Parade & Service in the village to remember those who died. The County mustered over 20 Standards and was joined by those of other organisations. The County Womens Standard was carried by Rachel Perkins, she has just won the contest to be The Women’s Section National Standard Bearer.
The service was well attended by the Officers, Standard Bearers and members of RBL Branches in Gloucestershire and included many dignitaries. Group Captain Paul Nicholas represented The Australian High Commission and Australian Defence Force, Mr Carl Berendsen, Counsellor for the NZ High Commission represented The New Zealand High Commission and New Zealand Defence Force. Mr Andrew Crompton represented The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Uniform presence from RAF Brize Norton was led by Squadron Leader Marshall, OC 501 Sqn RAuxAF, and HQ 1 Artillery Brigade by Lt Col Colin Gordon.
Lord Vestey, The Deputy Lord Lieutenant, inspected the parade before they marched through Leighterton to the cemetery for the Service. The band of 614 (Lydney) Squadron ATC lead the parade and the Nailsworth Silver Band played music for the service which was led for the last time by The Reverend Thoresen, a New Zealander, who soon to move to Dorset. The Lesson was read by Mr Kevin Dixon whose grandfather Henry John Dixon served at Leighterton. The Address by Reverend Thoresen was thought provoking and poignant, noting that we gather, not to glorify war but to remind ourselves that we value who we are, to acknowledge the courage of those who contributed so much to shaping our identities; to remember not only those who have died in war or as a result of it but those who are still on active service. Lord Vestey laid the first wreath then further wreaths were laid by respective dignitaries on behalf of UK Forces; The Australian Defence Force; The New Zealand Defence Force; and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Then wreaths were laid for the ex-forces organisations by the RBL County Chairman; and the Western Front Association. Mr Dixon, who was returning to Australia after the service laid a wreath on behalf of those ANZACs were buried here. The Roll Call was read by pupils of Leighterton Primary School who then laid a sprig of rosemary on each grave which to ANZACs is synonymous with remembrance and commemoration. Its association with remembrance has carried through to modern times; in literature and folklore it is an emblem of remembrance as, in ancient times, the plant was supposed to strengthen memory. The poppy grew wild in Flanders Fields; similarly rosemary grew wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Earlier Gp Capt Nicholas had placed Poppy Crosses on each of the graves. These had been made by children from St Johns Primary School in Clifton Hill, Australia for placement during ANZAC Day at Leighterton.
The County Chairman ended the service with a vote of thanks. This was followed by the singing of the Anthems of Australia, then New Zealand, and finally the National Anthem. After the Service the parade marched back past the dignitaries where Lord Vestey took the salute.
Refreshments were then taken in the School Hall and Lord Vestey presented the school with 2 crocheted poppies which were created as part of the 5,000 Poppies Project, which began in Australia to mark Anzac Day. The design stems from an installation at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day 2015. Lord Vestey had been presented with these during a recent visit to Australia by the Victoria State Governor to give to Leighterton School as part of the ANZAC Day Service. Like Poppies in the Moat, the 5000 Poppies Project is Australia’s tribute of respect and remembrance to those who have served in all conflicts. The handmade poppies will be at the RHS showground at the Royal Hospital Chelsea where almost 300,000 individually crocheted poppies will form a spectacular tribute garden. Leading up to ANZAC Day the children had made their own Poppy tribute.