Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 2 1919
Conisbrough and Denaby Warriors
Touching Tribute to the Dead
On Saturday, Conisborough and Denaby officially welcomed the return of their soldiers and sailors. It was, indeed, a memorable occasion, and the reception accorded those gallant fellows was worthy of the splendid manner in which they have responded to the call of the Country, of the honour their gallant deeds and showered on the district, and of the noble sacrifices they have made on the altar of patriotism. It was a day which will live long in the annals of Conisborough, the populace of which – proud to the core of the exploits of their brave men folk – opened wide their arms and hearts, and in a spirit, intense and heartfelt, demonstrated their sincere gratitude to their soldier sons and brothers.
The principal streets and buildings were ablaze with colour, with fluttering union jacks, bunting, and flooring streamers, while some of the more obscure residential quarters have been transformed into dazzling arcades of festoons and strings of pennants. Deep pride in the men they were feting shone from the eyes of everyone next soldiers themselves accepted the welcome and the outburst of popular feeling with traditional modesty, though deep down in their hearts they must have been greatly stirred and gratified.
The reception was organised principally by the members of the Conisborough section of the special Constabulary (with Mr H.L.Smethurst as their section commander) assisted by an energetic committee of prominent ladies and gentlemen. The soldiers from Denaby, led by captain H.C.Harrison, marched to the music of the Conisborough United subscription band, to the Castle grounds where they were joined by the Conisborough men. In United procession, the column, comprising nearly 800 men, proceeded, via Church Street, New Hill and Low Road to theCoronation Park. Here had been placed a temporary cenotaph dedicated to the glorious dead. Standing about 8 feet high, the cross, mounted on three planes, was draped in white and surmounted by a wreath of laurels, and bore the simple inscription,
“Lest we forget.”
Upon the plinths in lovely profusion were laid a number of wreaths, and bunches of roses, lilies, and sweet peas – simple tribute to the lads who had fallen. The whole presented a most beautiful appearance, but constituted a poignant reminder of the great cost of victory. The laurel, wreath was provided by Brigadier General Sir Robert Bewicke-Copley, and wreaths received from sorrowing relatives and friends in memory of the fallen.
The procession passed the monument at the salute, and halted. The hymn. “Abide with me,” was then expressively rendered by about 50 children robed in white from the Station Road schools, the singing being conducted by Miss E Cotterill, assistant teacher. There was a vast crowd assembled at this point, and the episode proved most affecting. Not one face, but was drawn in solemn lines, while many eyes filled with tears, and many a heart with bitterness and ache. Mothers of fallen sons, and widows, wept in silent anguish, and strong men – aye even some of the soldiers – stood with bared and bent heads and misty eyes.
At the conclusion of the hymn, Mr Sidney Trout sounded the “last post,” in which one sound express the mournful lament of the soldiers for their fallen comrades. Long after the last plaintive note and died away on the wings, the assembly remained in reverent silence, while fervent muttered prayers for the souls of the dead, crossed many a quivering lip.
The incident closed the men reformed, and marching to the strains of live music, was soon restored to their wonted high spirits.
A splendid tea, provided in the Station Road Schools, and catered for by Mr George Squires, of Mexborough, put the company in good humour for the festivities, which followed.
The concept was presided over by Mr S.C.Urch, chairman of the Conisbrough parish Council, and supporting him on the platform were captain H.C.Harrison, Mr J Brocklesby, J.P., Lt W Appleyard, J.P., Mr F Ogley, J.P., C.C.and Mr H. L. Smethurst. Brig General A. Bewicke-Copley, K.B.E., C.V., put in an appearance after the commencement of the proceedings, and his arrival was greeted with loud and prolonged cheering.
Capt Harrison, who received an enthusiastic ovation, said that some of them have been privileged to remain at home during the war.he had thought during the first two years of the war that it was nothing much of a privilege, and have had long to get out and in the thick of it, feeling very sore at being made to remain in England. When, however, the men were spent a year or two out in the fighting area returned with their harrowing stories. He, in his home station, began to consider himself rather fortunate. He now felt increasingly grateful to those were helped take the burden off the shoulders of men like himself who, while they were endeavouring to keep things going at home, were kept in security. The fact that the men were left.
Those at home were keeping the old country. “Carrying on,” had, you thought, help them to fight so keenly and bring to the district so much honour.(applause.) They could never express all the pride they felt for what those men had done. His part in the evenings proceedings was to offer to them, on behalf of the volunteers, a hearty welcome.
The volunteers, he thought, were very “small beer” besides the men were being “out there.” As the volunteers had not been permitted to go overseas, the ad made a point of showing the people that they could drill. (Laughter.) Although there was no necessity for them to do any fighting, they showed the people they were not afraid of anybody. (Laughter.) He had been with the volunteer since 1914, and with them at spent many happy hours, including long route marches and nights in the canteen. (Laughter.) He extended to all present in most hearty welcome back to civilian life. (Applause.) He knew they were better for what they had passed through – morally better, that was – and had learned something which would ultimately prove of benefit to them. Those in that room, had nearly all passed through the crucible of war, and he felt they would be better citizens in the future than ever they had been in the past. They would all look back with considerable pleasure, and no little degree of pride on the deeds performed by the boys gather around them tonight. (Applause.)
Mr Smethurst referred to the part that the special constables had played in the war. They had done their bit in their small way. (Applause.) It had been said that the Conisbrough volunteers could have won the war in less than three weeks – is the Kaiser could only have seen them at drill, he would have died with laughing. (Laughter.) But if he had only seen the special “bobbies” drilling, he would have burst himself before he had time to laugh. WLaughter.) Referring to their guests. Brigadier General Sir A.Bewicke-Copley, he reminded them of the great amount of work he had done during the war’s. He had been under fire – mental fire – through the losses he had sustained
Brig Gen Bewicke Copley was enthusiastically received on rising and said that it was a great privilege for an old soldier like himself to have that opportunity of being in the midst of so many other old soldiers, and seeing around him so many smiling faces of men who had done their bit. He welcomed them with all his heart. It was a proud thing for each of them to have done his bit, to serve his country, to have responded to the call in the time of the country’s extreme peril, to have offered – and in many cases given – his all for the honour of our dear country. They had stood between their women and children, and the four, and had formed a bulwark to civilisation.
General Copley proceeded to refer to his impressions of the London peace pageant. There he saw the splendid fellows vying with each other in matters of smartness and discipline – in the squareness of their shoulders. You thought what gratitude they ought to these men he had asked himself whathad enabled the soldiers – who four years ago were civilians – to conquer the greatest military power the world had ever seen. He had concluded that it must’ve been the British spirit – the spirit, which, when we were winning, was apt to take things easy, but which, when we were up against it, short the men at their best. (Applause.) Allied to that splendid spirit had been discipline. Discipline was an extraordinary thing. In peacetime. One hardly realised what discipline meant, but when one had the privilege of being with the British soldiers in a tight place, then only did one know what the British spirit and discipline meant. The tighter the place, the more cheery became the British soldier, and the less he cared. That splendid spirit, and the discipline which, in that very short time had been instilled into them had beaten Germany. The tribute paid to the dead at the Cenotaph in Whitehall had poignantly reminded them of the debt they owed to the dead. The reverent way in which the huge throngs of people had paid homage to the fallen had reminded him that the heart of the people was right.
The people of England should stick by the old country. After great was there was always a certain amount of unrest, they could not expect it should be otherwise. But he urged the soldiers not to be led away by agitators. They should bear in mind that whatever most of them said, their hearts were right will stop in their heart of hearts they were prepared to do what the soldiers had done. Economy and work were the two things necessary to make the victory worth living for; they should respond to the dictates of their innermost hearts. Both as employer and employee they should show they were prepared to assist one another in the same friendly spirit that shown in the past; they had fought for the victory, and they should now fight for a real and lasting peace. They should be grateful to those who had gone, and they should be thankful to those one return. Above all, they should take courage for the future. (Applause).
Mr Brocklesby said that he did not remember any gathering which proved so interesting to him as that one stop he had been very active in helping to recruit men that district for the army and Navy, and followed their brilliant exploits with deep right. You now rejoice in their homecoming, and congratulated them on the successes they had achieved, whilst they thank the most sincerely for the services they had rendered, they did not forget to think with pride in kindness of those who had laid down their lives.
Regarding the future, unity was necessary. They should all be patient and stick to the old ship; to scribbler at the present time would inflict cruel hardship and suffering on millions of perfectly innocent people. If they went forward in peace in the same good spirit in which their wage war – drawn together by close bonds of unity – then they need not fear for the future of the British Empire. (Applause.)
During an interval in the proceedings, the military medal was presented by Brigadier General Copley to Mr Edwin Turner, whose late schoolmaster, Mr W Smith of the Morley place school’s, read the official announcement of the action for which the award was made. The recipient had distinguished himself by keeping splendid action during a heavy enemy bombardment of the position. He had, said Mr Smith, had many thrilling experiences, and they were all pleased to welcome him back. As a result schoolmaster he felt deeply proud of him.
During the evening artistes contributed to most enjoyable programme. Following the concert, the company repaired to the Castle grounds, when a picturesque pilot display was given. The atmospheric conditions were ideal, and the dark, sombre sky rendered more pronounced the brilliancy of the spectacle. Rockets swish skywards in a ghostly man, rending the blackness of the skies with darts of stars and sprays of multicoloured lights. Had the shades of Conan, Athelstan, or Henguist, been abroad and that bewitching night, they must have been startled out of there wonted serenity. Owls, disturbed from their sequestered vigils, whirred hooting to some quieter nook. A torchlight procession formed by the Boy Scouts, was a most interesting feature, and added a strange beauty and weirdness to the scene. The battlements illuminated by acetylene lamps presented a remarkable appearance and the old program made a fitting consummation to a never to be forgotten occasion. As a finale 700 voices sang the national anthem, the crumbling walls of the historicold pile – doubtless moved to expression – taking up in echoes and re-echoes the strain of the hymn. The company dispersed about 11.30.
Throughout the weekend the wreaths on the Cenotaph were constantly added to.