I’m lucky enough to live in a village with a profound sense of community, and never is it more strongly visible than on Remembrance Sunday.
On Remembrance Sunday, villagers come together to process down the High Street from the former Hawkesbury Hospital Hall (built to nurse injured soldiers in wartime) to the war memorial on the Plain (our village green) at the centre of our village. All local groups are involved, either in laying wreaths at the service or taking part in services in school or in church or in one of our two chapels.
I don’t remember this degree of commemoration when I was my daughter’s age, living in suburbia in the 1960s.
Perhaps the war was still too close for my parents’ and grandparent’s generation – they wanted to forget. Although it’s now so much longer since the end of the Second World War, I feel much more conscious of it now.
For this reason, and slightly to my surprise, I found myself writing it into the Christmas special of my latest cosy mystery novel, Murder in the Manger, whose timeline runs from 6th November to the week before Christmas.
My Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries are essentially comedies, but there’s always at least one serious, and, I hope, moving scene. One such scene that I found myself writing in Murder in the Manger takes place on Armistice Day (11th November) in the village school, in which villagers join the children in the village school. During a short service of commemoration, the children recite the names on the war memorial, many of whom, as in Hawkesbury Upton, are still represented in the village by their descendants (Chapter 13 We Will Remember Them). It also draws the reader up to consider who in their acquaintance would be called up to fight should there ever be another such war. (Chapter 14 We Can Be Heroes)
I know that is something I consider every year, as I stand quietly at our war memorial during the service there, observing the young men and women in the crowd who would be sent to fight, or who would not have long to wait for their call-up papers. My daughter, her friends, and her peers.
This small episode in my novel is my small tribute to those that sacrificed their lives in both World Wars and to their bereaved families and all those who loved them, not just in Hawkesbury Upton, but all around the world.
We shall remember them.