Kingston’s Council and British Legion branches cancel Remembrance Sunday commemorations

Kingston Council and local Royal British Legion branches have cancelled the commemoration events that usually mark Remembrance Sunday across the borough.

The Council announced on October 21 that, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the traditional war memorial service, church service and march past in central Kingston would not be possible this year.

The Council said it would hold a specially adapted commemoration service at All Saints Parish Church in Kingston, which would be invitation-only but could be live-streamed on the Council’s YouTube channel at 10.55am this Sunday, November 8.

Likewise, the Legion’s local branches in Surbiton, Chessington and New Malden have cancelled their usual wreath-laying services and parades.

Chairman of the Legion’s Malden & Coombe branch Ken Smith said: “We are all upset about not being able to do it but we understand fully the reasons and we all have to keep safe.”

Smith said that the Legion is encouraging its members and the general public to commemorate the day individually this year.

“We ask them to observe the silence and say a few words about those who have fallen, and not just those who have fallen, but those who were seriously injured,” he said.

Local Royal Signals veteran Bill Dedman said he was disappointed that his local ceremony would not take place but that he would respect the two minutes silence privately.

He said: “I shall find some way of celebrating anyway… to me, all those people gave their lives for us, and I think it’s most important.”

Ned Ruffle, a veteran of the Russian Convoys and the Far East, said it was terrible that the usual commemoration events, had been cancelled.

He said: “What I’ve heard and read in the paper is what we’ve got to do is get out in the front yard and clap so I’ll have my white hat on for the Russian Convoys and I’ll be out there clapping.”

Supporting veterans during the pandemic

In addition to cancelled Remembrance commemorations, the pandemic has affected veterans and their support associations in other ways.

Malden & Coombe branch treasurer Jan Feist said she was concerned about the financial impact of the pandemic on the Legion’s primary fundraising effort, the Poppy Appeal.

Instead of pounding the pavements with their poppies, the local New Malden branch could only set up a few tables outside shops on the high street on limited days and during certain time slots.

Feist said: “It’s a learning curve, and it’s a different way of doing it.

“I’m hopeful we’ve raised a good profile, which is as important as anything, and hopefully we’ve raised the money.”

Instead of the usual 250 boxes of poppies to sell, the branch received only 50 boxes for this year, and Feist estimated that only half the amount of money would be raised.

Money raised by the Legion is used to support veterans in various ways including by funding veterans’ care homes and rehab centres.

John Joyce, founder of the Veterans Support Association (VSA), said smaller charities were also struggling financially but had focused on different ways of supporting veterans during the pandemic.

Joyce said: “Any group can give money, but that doesn’t relieve boredom or isolation.”

‘More than just one day’

The VSA obtained a six-month grant from the Covenant Fund Trust and used it to provide activity packs of puzzles, art and sketching supplies and modelling materials to over 200 veterans across the country.

Daily events for remote engagement were arranged on the VSA’s Facebook group to encourage members to touch base and get involved.

Joyce said that the local commemoration cancellations were “soul-destroying” but that, for him personally, Remembrance was about more than just one day.

He emphasised the importance of engaging younger people in commemorations. “Young people have to grow up living the lives that those who gave their lives haven’t had.

“The best way to remember those people is to live their life for them,” he said.

Joyce said he would encourage local veterans to don their poppies and uniforms and to stand outside their doors to observe the two minutes silence at 11am this Sunday.

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