Last Sunday, alongside the Lord Lieutenant, the Mayor of Hereford, civic dignitaries and thousands of local people, I stood in St Peter's Square to lay a wreath and pay my respects to the fallen on Remembrance Sunday. I lost my own grandfather in the Second World War, and it was, as always, a very deeply moving moment.
Except that this Sunday was unlike any other. It was the Centenary anniversary of the end of the Great War. It was thus a moment to reflect on the whole awful passage of a war unlike any other in history.
To reflect on the valour and courage and hardship of those who fought, and those they left at home to sustain families and communities and the war effort itself. And to reflect on the horrors of war itself, and on the high ideals with which people fought: of loyalty to friends, of duty to one's country, of the importance of preserving human freedom and justice and an open and democratic way of life.
Throughout this year Hereford Cathedral has played a special role in leading the commemoration. Earlier this year, the Cathedral brilliant hosted the Weeping Window display of poppies. The installation of several thousand handmade poppies cascading down the Cathedral walls brought thousands of visitors to the City, but most importantly it was itself an astonishing, and astonishingly beautiful, act of tribute and remembrance.
In September, a new statue was unveiled at the Old Market of soldier Allan Leonard Lewis, the only Herefordshire-born recipient of the Victoria Cross. A matching memorial plaque can be found in the Cathedral, which is now displayed among plaques for those in the Herefordshire Regiment who fought and died in Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine and France, and one to Hereford Cathedral School students and staff who lost their lives.
In the week leading up to Sunday, the names of Herefordshire’s 3,213 fallen were read out aloud in the Cathedral. Five hundred or so names were read each day by family representatives of those who died, were injured or who served during the First World War. This was not only a touching tribute to those who fought and died, but also to ensure their service will never be forgotten.