Lee, St Margaret WW1 War Memorial Dedication Service

St. Margaret’s Day (20th July), 1921, was marked by special services. But the principal service was that held in the evening, when a war memorial altar, (and) a tablet bearing the names of fallen men from St. Margaret’s, were dedicated by the Bishop of Southwark. A large company assembled In the Church, and the. service was marked by an intense solemnity. At one period, following the recital of the names of the fallen, the silence was so complete that the ticking of the clock at the west end of the nave could he heard by those sitting half-way up the aisle.

The Rector, Rev. R. Meddlngs recited the sentences. Following the opening hymn, and Psalms xxxiii.. and cxxi. were sung. The lesson read was the very appropriate one in the Book of Wisdom, chapter iii. verses 1 to 6. This was followed by the Nune Dimittis, sung to a special arrangement. The choir, unaccompanied, sang with feeling the anthem, “There is an old belief,” to music written by Sir Hubert Parry. More sentences, taken from revelations were recited by the Rector.

Bishop’s Address

The Bishop then took charge of the service, and after the prayers end the hymns “They whose course on earth is o’er,” gave an address on the words, “In the ages to come,” written by Paul to the Ephessians.
It had often been said that in our cathedrals and parish churches we saw, written In stone, the history of church and nation.
The ancient cathedral, with its rough hewn stone, Witnessed to the coming of the Normans; the figure of the Crusaders spoke of the Crusades, and shattered sculpture spoke of times of storm. On all these things were silent witnesses of stern epochs through which the nation had passed.
We, in our time, were placing in our churches memorials, which, in ages to come, would witness to the experiences through which we had passed. In France and Belgium shattered and broken cathedrals, which only six or seven years ago were used for prayers and praise, would for centuries to come witness to the tribulations through which those countries passed. And, in the ages to come, as men moved up and down our own country, they would see in the parish churches, in stone, brass or wood, some memorial of the Great War. Or, in the lynch gate, the wayside cross or Calvary, they would see a reminder of the sacrifice which so many men had made. They, at St. Margaret’s, were that day dedicating the memorial to those who went forth from that place and laid down their lives. What would their memorials witness to in the ages to come ?

First, they would witness of their love for the men who gave their lives. All felt a true and real gratitude because those men died to preserve the freedom we enjoyed. But there were many present, who for a deeper reason, loved and honoured those men, and their hearts went out to those who thought of dear ones with a love that would never pass away. These memorials would also speak of hope. They were placed in churches because the Church was the place of hope; it bore witness to another world, and so they thought of those who bad gone before, not as dead, but as living beyond the veil. It would indeed be most unbearable if they had to think of those whose lives were so full of promise, so energetic, so full of hope and aspiration, as having passed away utterly and completely. That was not their faith. They believed that death was the gateway into life and that beyond death was a fuller and higher life.

Their altar spoke of a communion not limited to this life, not only of those in the Church militant here on earth, but communion also with those who had gone before. The nearer they drew to Christ the nearer they became to those who were with Him. He held us with one ‘hand, and them with the other, and, as we went into communion with Him, through Him we were in communion with them.

In days to come the memorial would witness to the cause for which those loyal citizens of England gave their lives. Though other reasons might be assigned, the fundamental answer would be that “they died for England.” English people did not say much about patriotism and love of country, yet it was there, and, when the call came, men were ready to die for it if need be.

The memorials would have a lesson to teach us also. The war had been won, but we had yet to win the peace, and that was a task which seemed as hard, if not harder, than winning the war. During the war men were buoyant with the hope of a new and better world coming out of the maelstrom of suffering and anguish. We had passed through a time of dissolution, and our hopes had not been fulfilled. They never would be fulfilled unless we strove for a better world in the same way, and in the same spirit, as men strove to win the war. That spirit was one of sacrifice. Individuals and classes forgot for the time being their own personal ends, and joined together in promoting the common cause. And a better world could only come whom, in days of peace, men learned the same lesson and showed the same spirit of sacrifice, when they subordinated all that was petty and selfish for the sake of the human race.

“‘Our freedom was won at the price of blood,” concluded the Bishop. “It us use it with the ‘highest and noblest of ends and to-day, as with thanksgiving we remember those who have laid down their lives, let Us, inspired by their example, be ready to show the same spirit of sacrifice in the tasks which peace presents to us”

A tablet at the west end of the church was unveiled by Mr. W. A. E. Russell, people’s warden, and Mr. H. W. Dewes, an ex-churchwarden. It bore the inscription;

“In proud and loving memory of the men of this congregation who gave their lives for their King and Country in the Great War. 1914-1918.”

The altar is magnificently carved, and has five panels representing the patron saints of St. Margaret’s and daughter churches. ‘The south panel bears the words, “1914.— ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’— 1918.”
“The Supreme Sacrifice” wee sung to the beautiful tune written by the Rev. C. Harris, and a procession with banners was made round the church to the altar, during the singing of the hymn, ‘For all the Saints.”
Mr. Fred Leeds played the “Dead March” in “Saul” at the conclusion, and a company of buglers of the 20th Battalion, the London Regiment sounded the Last Post and the Reveille.

Reference: Gregory, R.R.C & Nunn, F.W. The Story of Lee, London, 1923 pp 349-351 Photograph facing page 368

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