Thursday, August 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: One Day, One Hundred Years and Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred Names.
"Our" Colours, By Nilfanion

On Sunday, 3rd August, it was my privilege to attend a ceremony at Gloucester Cathedral to commemorate the start of World War One (or the Great War, as it was known before 1939). That war started one hundred years ago last week. I was one of more than three hundred people, one from each parish in the diocese of Gloucester, who took a small but important part in a service to mark the beginning of what was supposed to be "The War To End All Wars".

I and my fellow Presenters each had a document printed with the name of every person from our respective parishes who died during the war. Although the village where I live is very small, mine had twenty-three names on it. Other people from larger parishes had dozens of names. The main part of the service consisted of the Presenters filing up to the altar, where each in turn handed their document to the Lord Lieutenant of  Gloucestershire, who is the Queen's representative in the county. 

It's the kind of ceremony England does brilliantly, and this was no exception.The invitation said "uniforms and decorations to be worn". Sun shining through the stained glass windows bounced off so many medals, braid and even spurs the effect was amazing but I didn't take any photos. It would have been disrespectful. As all the regimental banners were paraded up to the altar, I thought how moved both my grandfathers would have been to know we still remember that terrible time. Both men were decorated in World War One, one on the Western Front, the other in Mesopotamia (an area covering much of the Middle East).

Before the service began, I worried I'd cry when they played the music used for Remembrance Day. It always has that effect on me, but it didn't happen this time. Once I'd delivered my list of names I turned to go back to my seat, glad I'd managed to stay dry-eyed. Then I saw the stream of people behind me, still heading toward the altar. It went on, and on, and on. Each person held a document representing many deaths, and all walked in stunned silence. That was unbearably poignant.

What is really tragic is that one hundred years later, people are still dying all over the world, because human nature won't let us all live in peace together.

The following day, the collected list of 7,700 names was read aloud in the cathedral. The ceremony began at 9:00am, and the continuous recitation took seven hours and twenty-five minutes.

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction - when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with her at, on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at


Nidhi Singh said...

The heavens opened and the rain bucketed down, drenching everything in its path, Epic research.

Christina Hollis said...

Thanks for commenting, Nidhi.

Kaelee said...

Christina ~ What a touching post. Not sure if I could have remained dry eyed.

Christina Hollis said...

None of us did. It was the sheer scale of it-you can take in dry facts and numbers of dead on an intellectual level, but this was real people, representing real people. Thanks for commenting, Kaelee.