We had planned to have a bun-fight in Byfield Village Hall on the afternoon of Friday 8th May 2020, culminating in all those attending parading over to the War Memorial for a short service and wreath-laying. As it was a Friday, and actually Bank Holiday “Monday” (the usual early May holiday had been officially delayed by four-days for the occasion), we had hoped to have a combined Anglican and RC worship for the event but higher forces were at work to prevent that, the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic. The obligatory “lockdown” and “social distancing” measures introduced to try to quell the spread of that invisible, and for far too many deadly, enemy had prevented our gathering for any reason for the last eight weeks. The wreath laying was therefore a somewhat lonely affair just witnessed by a father and son passing-by on their permitted once-daily exercise outing...
Our PAO Major Tom Smith laid a wreath for Chipping Warden's Veterans under similar circumstances...
One of our Member's Father, George Wheeler was observed saluting during the silence at 1100hrs, in remembrance of his Brother John, then aged 19, who was shot-down over France. By this action he also remembered all the others who lost their lives in those times. Many of our Members in isolation around our District made similar gestures of tribute.
Countless Legionnaires (and inumerable others) around the country were still “getting together” though but not physically; modern technology came to the fore and video conferencing became the norm. There were video events too, where people individually performed various tasks and rituals, with a video of those being combined and broadcast to anyone “connected” who wished to mentally participate in whatever they were doing. However out here in the wilds of southwest Northamptonshire, we are never sure who might be benefitting from those excellent efforts; a third of our Members are not “on-line” and most of the rest seem to be shy of admitting they might be.
Our Membership’s reluctance to embrace modern communications has been highlighted by this current crisis. Because of the lack of response to our recent attempts to bring everything we do, and have done in the recent past to the attention of everyone via the World Wide Web, and “social media”, we decided to print a “Newsletter”. That was really just a hard-copy of our Web site covering 2019. We hand delivered that to each of our Members; that produced just a few appreciative e-mails, a couple of ‘phone calls and even a letter or two via snail-mail – progress indeed.
In addition, at the instigation of one of our elder Members, a nonagenarian no less, a year or so ago we started to regularly telephone all our Members who had passed the age of eighty. As that seemed to “work”, now in these very strange times we needed to replace our Meetings, so we just expanded that exercise to cover all of our little group of 73; yes, now 73, we lost one of our more dedicated and oldest Members recently but thankfully only after a short illness and not due to the coronavirus.
We divied-up the Membership between our Committee and now keep in touch by the old fashioned telephone at least once a month, sometimes more often. Our monthly gatherings were usually supported by a regular dozen or so but now we were speaking to people we hadn’t seen for years, and some who we had never met. And all were happy to chat. We WILL continue to do that after the emergency, it's obviously a lot more effective than any modern means.
The ancient idiom “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” comes to mind.
What has all that got to do with VE Day+75? Not much! But we thought this was a good platform to make you aware of our thoughts on the matter of communication. AND, getting back to the Subject, it did provide a good excuse for a chat about what we had planned, and may do later, when “all this” is over.
Previously, County had asked us to submit any memories our Members had of the time for publication on the RBL South East Midland's Facebook page; we were able to put-in a few items, which you'll find there, or here under our Stories pages. If you are not a Facebook user, you can still view via the link, and when it asks you to "log-in" or "create an account", and doesn't allow you to scroll without, just look for and "click-on" the "not now" small print below or after those requests.
So, what DID happen on that lovely and warm, and, apart from one big black cloud coming-over, threatening us and spraying a few spits and spots late in the afternoon, thankfully dry spring anniversary day? We had picnics in the lanes and byways of our District, some of which turned into full-scale street parties. The images below tell the story. By the way, where you see people dancing and otherwise being seemingly close together, they are of the same family and live together.