Lest we forget: 100 years later
Bermuda marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War by lighting a beacon of hope for a brighter future.
Heiko Schwartz, head of the political department at the German Consulate in New York, was among the VIP guests as soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment lit the fire at Government House to conclude Remembrance Day commemorations on Sunday.
John Rankin, the Governor, told the crowds that “however dark the hour, there is always hope”.
He added: “It is for that reason I’m particularly grateful to all the young people who have come to participate in this evening’s event.
“You are the future of Bermuda, the future of the world and we are honoured by your presence.”
Mr Rankin added the beacon was “a light of hope” and that “we should rededicate ourselves to keeping that light alive”.
Mr Schwartz said he was honoured to accept the invitation to visit Bermuda for Remembrance Day.
He added: “For us, it was a strong signal of our friendship, we have been enemies before and now we have become friends and close allies.
“That is why this evening is so moving and I’m very honoured and glad to be here today.”
The beacon was one of many lit around Britain, the Commonwealth and in the Overseas Territories to mark the anniversary.
As soldiers lit the beacon, an RBR bugler played the Last Post and a piper played the Flowers of the Forest, the traditional lament of Scottish Highland regiments for the fallen.
Earlier, hundreds of people turned out for a Remembrance Day parade to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the conflict in which 544 Bermudians served, mainly in the Bermuda Militia Artillery and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps.
A total of 53 Bermudians were killed in action, 15 were wounded, 14 were taken prisoner of war, four went missing in action and 19 died of disease or wounds.
Veterans of other conflicts lined up alongside soldiers from the RBR and other uniformed services to commemorate the Armistice, which came into effect on 11am on November 11, 1918, with two minutes’ silence.
Canadian visitor Janet Jeffery, who attended the parade with husband Nick, said the Regiment had put on a parade to be proud of.
Ms Jeffery added: “I’m not surprised. It was what I expected, but I was very much impressed. Everybody was immaculate.”
The annual parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph took place on Front Street.
The biggest round of applause at the end of the commemoration when former warriors marched from outside Cabinet Office.
But not all the RBR soldiers were on parade: its chefs had put in two days of hard work to prepare a lunch to honour Bermuda’s former military at No 6 Shed.
Sergeant John Lema, 37, from Devonshire, an eight-year veteran of the RBR, said: “We enjoy it. It’s always great to give back to the community and honour our fellow servicemen and women.”
Mr Rankin, who led the wreath-laying, said afterwards: “This year is a special one because it’s the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Today has been a day to mark that Armistice and to recognise all of Bermuda’s veterans, both those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who survived.
“All of them played a part in helping us to have the peace and freedoms we enjoy today.”
David Burt, the Premier, who laid a wreath on behalf of the Government, added: “It’s an important part of Bermuda’s history and something which we will continue to commemorate.”
Canon Thomas Nisbett, 93, a Second World War soldier in the Bermuda Militia Infantry, which guarded the island against enemy threats, said: “It was beautiful. There are not many veterans left and it was nice to hear the applause as we marched off.”
Isobel Flood, also 93, from Pembroke, served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War, said: “Our uniformed services did very well — and I’m still standing up as well. It’s very important that we keep commemorating these events. Like they say, ‘Lest we forget’.”
RBR Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley said: “This is one ceremony and parade that we are really honoured to do. That’s because it’s for the veterans. To see them out on parade is awesome and to be able to mingle with them at the lunch afterwards is first class.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Eugene Raynor, a former Commanding Officer of the RBR and its Honorary Colonel, said: “Today we celebrate the end of the First World War 100 years ago. But will we ever celebrate the end of war?”