Lee, Methodist Church War Memorial Dedication Service

A simple brass tablet, fixed to the organ screen at Lee United Methodist Church, bears the names of four men, former worshippers at the Church, who fell in the war. This tablet was unveiled on Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1922, in the presence of 4 moved and reverent congregation, by Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Ball.

Supporting the Mayor of Lewisham, Councillor C. H. Dodd, who presided, were Mr. R. 0. Roberts, L.C.C., and Mrs. Roberts, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Ball, L.C.C., the Rev. A.. Hancock, Pastor of the Church, and Mr. A. 3. Harris, late of the 2nd Cheshires, who read the appropriate Scripture.

Before the service Mr. A. Bilham played numerous organ voluntaries, and after the Scripture reading, Miss Elsie Thomsett tastefully sang “0 Rest in the Lord.”

Referring to the object of the service, the Mayor said war was horrible, and needed a great deal of justification. But if ever a war could be justified, it was the one from which we recently bad emerged. We entered it with clean hands; with the feeling that we had to defend right against might. We had not been in it long before we realised that it was a life and death struggle. It had often been said before that we, as a nation and an empire, were decadent and effeminate, but the country called, and the flower of cur manhood dashed into the Army. What they did was known.

In the history of the world were recorded many deeds of heroism, but It was doubtful if any could be found to equal the deeds performed by the men in our forces— certainly they could not be surpassed. And we emerged victorious.

Those present had seen the boys they commemorated grow from childhood and blossom from boyhood into full manhood. Now they were gone. To those left behind was the consolation of knowing their dear ones bore a crown of martyrdom; the surety that when we had passed on and our names were forgotten, that tablet would keep green the memory of the men who had fallen.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ball removed the Union Jack from before the tablet, and later spoke in a voice, which obviously was only just under control. He had, he explained, unveiled a large number of memorials, but he always found difficulty in speaking afterwards. As a rule, especially in this neighbourhood, he read names that were familiar to him, perhaps names of men whose letters home had come before him when on service; men whose lives be had shared, and men whom ho had grown to love.

But he was grateful to the Pastor and the congregation for giving him the opportunity of paying a tribute to the memory of those men. Some people held that money spent on war memorials was a waste, but he welcomed them as reminders of what the boys died for. They served to hold us to the determination that we would not betray the trust reposed in us.

Mr. R. 0. Roberts repeated a story of a scene in a Scottish town, where a visitor saw a pile of stones in the town square, near the war memorial. “Every man,” he was told in answer to a question, “as he joined up, placed a stone in the square, and when the war ended, those who came back collected their stones. These are the stones left by the men who did not return.”

“Here in this church,” said Mr. Roberts, “where you are doing such a great work, you have four stones uncollected. I feel like my colleague, Colonel Ball, greatly privileged in taking part in this memorial service, and I sincerely trust that the young people here will ever remember this afternoon, and carry on the great traditions of those who sacrificed their all.”

Buglers of the 20th Battalion The London Regiment, under Drummer Grainger, sounded the “Last Post” and the “Reveille,” whilst the drums rolled.

The Rev. A. Hancock said that was an unique occasion, one which, he trusted, would not occur in the life-time of those present. He expressed his own pleasure and that of the congregation, at the presence of the Mayor and the other friends on the rostrum. Observing that, so far as the Church was concerned, it was more like a family gathering than a public celebration, the Pastor said they had watched the fallen men grow from boyhood, and they were thankful that they had contributed to the great victory, even by the sacrifice of their lives.

The fundamental principle of Christianity was sacrifice, the very liberties we enjoyed today were the outcome of the sacrifices and sufferings of generations which went before. In the realm of nature the lower orders were sacrificed that the higher forms might live; the grain of wheat had to give up its life that the harvest might grow.

It was true of our own country, when the time came that the sword had to be unsheathed. The people recognised an issue that could only be decided upon the battlefield. It had been decided. Righteousness had triumphed. And, arising out of the turmoil and agony of the war, we had seen the League of Nations arise, to preserve the rights of all nations and settle International questions, not at the bayonet point, but round the common table, In a spirit of reason and mutual confidence. And the nations today had that right only because our own boys, and a multitude of others, had fallen on the blood-soaked fields of France and Belgium.

The organ in that church, with the scheme of renovation, was the tribute they were paying to the memory of their own men. The inscription upon the tablet was: “This organ was erected to the Glory of God and in memory of Charles B. Fysh, D.S.O., M.C,, Herbert Morse, Ernest W.
Hunter, Arthur E. Watkins, who fell In the great war, 1914—1919.”

At the close of the service, a wreath In memory of Ernest Hunter was hung on the organ screen.

On the table below the pulpit was a bowl of narcissi, cornflowers, and red daisies, arranged by Mr. Alan Cottell and Miss M. Stephens.

Reference: Gregory, R.R.C & Nunn, F.W., The Story of Lee, London, 1923, pp 370-371

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