Poppy Day was faithfully marked by a Remembrance Day service in St. John’s Anglican cathedral last Sunday even if Ronnie Scott (who turned 106 last month) was not reading the Kohima Epitaph for the first time in living memory, while the absence of any ambassador was another first in this journalist’s experience.
Following the Argentine national anthem and the hymn ‘Abide with Me,’ the first two readings came from Bhavna Sharma (chargé d’affaires with Kirsty Hayes home in London) and Major Lawrence Ward (military attaché) of the British Embassy with the third delivered by United States Embassy Defense Attaché Colonel Steve Winkleman.
Anglican Bishop Brian Williams officiating the service then relinquished the sermon to Presbyterian Elder Reverend Douglas Robertson (perhaps in compensation for his St Andrew’s Church not being the venue this year). Recalling his grandfather’s First World War experience, Robertson broadened the “Lest We Forget” theme from the war dead to describe war as one of the calamities arising from separation from God.
After the hymn ‘This is My Song,’ the Royal British Legion organising the service began its ceremony of Remembrance, complete with flags and bagpipes (Alan Oliver). Wreaths were laid and ‘The Last Post’ was followed by two minutes of silence. ‘The flowers of the forest’ was then read by local Royal British Legion Royal Chairman Tim Lough while Les Space, Commander of the American Legion, stepped in to replace Ronnie Scott reading the Kohima Epitaph: “When you go home, tell them of us, and say:/For your tomorrow we gave our today.”
An Act of Commitment, the Lord’s Prayer and the Remembrance Day service was brought to a ringing close with ‘God save the King,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Jerusalem’ (the latter the fourth and final contribution of the Vox Celeste choir, immaculately directed, as always, by Ian Gall).
No Ronnie Scott but this Poppy Day had an unexpected bonus for this journalist – he was most amiably “kidnapped” by Alejandro Cowes and Anglo-Uruguayan community historian Robert Wells and treated to a bangers and mash lunch at the Lomas English Social Club in Lomas de Zamora (celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, thus making it even older than the now extinct downtown English Club or any other such association in this country). Now headed by John Hall and Andrew Grant, the vitality of community life there is impressive, as is the building with its various amenities including two magnificent billiard tables. Worth a more extended mention at some future point.
The church service was held on the nearest Sunday to Poppy Day, which was actually the previous day (marking the Armistice ending World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918). This was also honoured by the Royal British Legion, which paid tribute to the war dead on the day at the British Cemetery in Chacarita.