Wanstead resident Colin Cronin started organising local Remembrance services several years ago. Here, the former councillor explains why he continues to do so and why such events provide a valuable lesson.
In 1922, local residents gathered for the unveiling of the Wanstead War Memorial next to Tarzy Wood. Designed by Forest Gate resident and sculptor Newbury Abbott Trent, it has stood as a permanent reminder for Wanstead residents of those members of our community who have given their lives selflessly during times of conflict.
Seventy-five years later in 1997, Snaresbrook’s Garden of Remembrance (off Snaresbrook Road) opened to honour all victims of war.
Now we are in the Remembrancetide period, members of the Wanstead community, young and old alike, are once again ready to stand together at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday and in the Garden of Remembrance on Armistice Day to pause, reflect and pay our respects to those who, for our tomorrows, gave their today.
I first began assisting the Royal British Legion in organising the Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day commemorations several years ago, and with the closure of the British Legion’s Wanstead branch some time ago, have continued to organise these annual commemorations ever since, with help from the Salvation Army, Vision RCL and officers from Redbridge Council.
It is always wonderful to see the RAF and police cadets parade along the High Street, the mayoral party being led to the memorial field by the golden Wanstead mace, gifted to Wanstead Urban Council by Winston Churchill, and members of the clergy from local Wanstead churches joining together to lead us in prayer. From the hymns and wreath-laying through to the sounding of the last post by a lone bugler, I am always struck by the solemnity and peacefulness of both occasions, which is in marked contrast to the chaos and cacophony that war brings.
But perhaps the most poignant aspect of Remembrance Sunday for me is seeing the youngest members of our community from the local Beavers, Cubs and Scouts laying their own personal poppy tributes at the base of the memorial.
I firmly believe that observing a moment’s silence on both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day not only allows members of our community to show respect and remember those who have lost their lives but it also reminds us of – and will continue to teach the generations that come after us – an incredibly valuable lesson: that war should never be the solution.
Surely, there can be no greater tribute to the victims of war than that?