Candle lit vigil remembers Shillington men who died in the First World War

Rev Richard Winslade by the memorial

Rev Richard Winslade by the memorial - Credit: Archant

Two candles flickered in the darkness in Shillington’s parish church on Tuesday evening to mark the centenary of the deaths of the first villagers to fall in the First World War.

War memorial

War memorial - Credit: Archant

The poignant tribute featured in a service held at All Saints Church to remember the first two men from the village who lost their lives fighting for their country.

The glowing candles were lit in memory of Private Harry Ansell and Private Arthur Pearce, both of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

Pte Ansell died on November 7, 1914 aged 21, and his name is inscribed on the Le Touret memorial in Pas de Calais.

It is believed that Pte Pearce was killed in action in the same area two days later.

Tuesday’s ceremony was the first of a series of services which will be held over four years to remember each man who died from Shillington, on the centenary of their sacrifice.

They have been organised by John Catton, a former serviceman from the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), and the Rev Richard Winslade.

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Mr Catton said: “I think it is a very good idea and everyone I have spoken to has been very enthusiastic about it.

“It is important to remember the men – who are all listed on Shillington’s war memorial – who lost their lives.

“We remember them every year, but this is a bit more personal with a candle lit in their memory and on the anniversary of their deaths.”

At the half hour church service prayers were said, hymms sung and a moment of silence was observed for each man.

The candles were then places on the war memorial and information about their lives was read out.

Rev Winslade, who conducted the service, said: “A ceremony for each man makes things a bit more personal, they can be remembered as people rather than as part of a mass.”

Sir Samuel Whitbread, the former Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, was at the service on behalf of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment along with Major Simon Sadler, who attended on behalf of the County Lieutenancy.

About 30 services will take place at All Saints over the coming years, each being held in the week of the 100th anniversary of a death, with the next scheduled to take place in April in honour of Frank Prutton, killed in action in Gallipoli.