The Gallipoli and St. George's Day
Parade in Bury


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The Bury Times report
Gallipoli dead remembered in solemn service
By Terry Morgan

The 92st anniversary of the Lancashire Landings at Gallipoli was commemorated in Bury on Sunday.

Led by the Fusilier Association Band and Corps of Drums, the parade, of military cadets and Fusilier veterans, and serving Territorial Army soldiers, stood in silence as they reflected on an infamous First World War campaign that cost thousands of local lives but gave the Fusiliers eternal glory.

The Standard Party
farside Steven Fitt,
middle John Scotson
nearest Camera Alan Noble

Wreaths were laid at the war memorial in honour of those who never returned from Gallipoli.

Six battalions of 6,000 men of Lancashire Fusiliers took part in the campaign. Eighty-eight officers and 1,728 other ranks lost their lives during the campaign, directly affecting some 2,000 families in this part of Lancashire. Thousands of soldiers were wounded or suffered terribly in the diseased riddle trenches.

Nothing was gained from the Gallipoli campaign. It was a costly military failure.

Yet, despite such horror, confusion and loss of life, the Fusiliers showed tremendous courage. Decorations awarded to the Lancashire Fusiliers were the six Victoria Crosses (all won before breakfast), three Companion of the Bath, eight Distinguished Service Orders, 25 Distinguished Conduct Medals and ten Military Crosses. The LFs ended the First World War with more Victoria Crosses than any other regiment in the British Army.

Of all the military action in the two world wars, and more recent conflict, it is Gallipol that has left its mark, a deep scar on the fabric of Bury, and reason why 92 years on, the town remembers those who never returned.

Here is the full sermon delivered by Reverend Dr John Findon, the rector of Bury, at yesterday's service: "Nine years ago, when he hear that I was to move to Bury, a friend sent me a newspaper cutting - heaven knows what had led him to keep it for so long - of an article written in 1992. It was a review of Geoffrey Moorhouse's wonderful book 'Hell's Foundation' which many of you will know.

"The author of the review had been a young, newly-commissioned officer, billeted in Ramsbottom in 1941, which he obviously found a pretty bleak experience during the blackout, but he went on to say this: 'However, Bury was near at hand. The centre of our lives at that time. It had a cinema, bars, a theatre even; donkey-stoned doorsteps, lace curtains, kindness and incredible warmth for 'a soldier'. For Bury was an army town; not like Aldershot or Pirbright: just a modest place which had, at one point in its life, slowly bled to death from the loss of its young men in the First World War. It suffered so brutally from war and killing that even after a second time around, in 1939, after the havoc of Korea, the cut and thrust of Malaysia and Aden, the carnage of the Falklands (of course, he would have had other conflicts to add to that list if he had been writing today) even after all that, the terrible word 'Gallipoli' is burned deep into the very fibre of every soul who was born in Bury, or who had family there.' ""'Deep into the fibre of every soul'; that was an overstatement, surely, even when the review was written in 1992. Certainly it would be so today.

And yet, in 2007, after enough years as Rector of Bury to make my previous existence feel like a distant dream, it seems to me that this yearly Gallipoli commemoration comes closer to expressing the soul of Bury than any other part of the yearly calendar of the life of the town. It is, of course, unique to Bury. The whole nation keeps Remembrance Sunday, because the whole nation was rescued from evil aggression by the sacrifices that we honour on that day. But Gallipoli Sunday is not like that. It is not a celebration of a deliverance, or the re-living of some great, though costly, victory.

"The Fusiliers are not short of victories they might celebrate if they chose, but that is not the point today. For there was no deliverance or victory about it. This was surely the most futile adventure in that terrible war. And of course it was bungled: as somebody remarked, they were five divisions and a hundred heavy guns short of what was needed, and such resources never could have been spared from the Western Front. Sir Ian Hamilton knew from the beginning that there was no realistic chance of success. Yet, this Bury Commemoration has never, in any coverage that I have read of it , been a day pointing the finger of blame at the politicians and the generals, either.

"Bury, of course, is not alone in making an annual commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign: for Australians and New Zealanders ANZAC Day has come to be seen, I suppose, as the baptism of fire that first began to distance them from the Empire, and to make them into independent nations. Thousands now journey half way round the world for the annual dawn service at Ari Burnu, to the north of ANZAC Cove, where their troops landed.

But Gallipoli Sunday in Bury is a quite different thing. For the ANZAC forces and their descendents, it was and is just possible to see this experience as part of the birth pangs of a new world.

"Not so for the ranks of the Lancashire Fusiliers; for them it was about the death of the old certainties with which those young soldiers had been brought up. ' Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set' - 'For King and Empire'; those who survived the Great War into middle age would live to see the end of so much of that - the Abdication Crisis, the dissolution of the Empire, the old world simply disappearing.

"Britain tried very hard during the twenties and thirties to persuade herself that the victory of 1918 had left the old order intact. My mother, who happened to be born on May 24, Queen Victoria's birthday, which was Empire Day, remembers how, all through her teens in the 1930s, the whole village school would march round the vicarage garden and salute the flag to mark the occasion. The old Wembley Stadium, with its twin towers, was built between the Wars to house the Empire Exhibition, which among other exhibits contained a life-sized statue of the then Prince of Wales, made from Canadian butter. All of that, looking back, was no more than the nation whistling in the dark to keep its spirits up.

"Meanwhile, year on year, Bury has kept its proud and solemn commemoration of the terrible waste of Gallipoli. Its meaning has changed over the years, as Geoffrey Moorhouse's book charts so brilliantly. At first, it was indeed 'burned into the souls ' of the survivors; Bury remembered because Bury could not forget. But it is decades now since there were any campaign veterans left to lead the parade, and yet it has continued to seem relevant into the 21st century, because it contains a wisdom that we still need.

"Bury is an unassuming town with unassuming people. It is proud in its way, but it gives itself no airs. A national newspaper recently did a survey which put it at the top of its list of places where people were good at laughing at themselves. That may seem a trivial thing to mention today, but it is all a piece: the Gallipoli Commemoration chimes exactly with the soul of the place.

"The fiasco that we remember today is the antidote to any sort of triumphalism. Old certainties, old patterns of thought, like old soldiers, fade away. A statue made of butter was an inspired image. Those who died at Gallipoli gave their best for what they believed to be right and good and true. Some of those who survived to live on in the land fit for heroes, and into a future in which all the foundations seemed to be shaking, some of them half envied the ones who had died with those old certainties secure and intact. 'They shall grown not old as we that are left grow old '. We all know how terrible growing old can be.

"But that is only part of the wisdom, and the lesser part, in which this commemoration is built. If that was all there was to be said, then Bury could do no more today than peer back once again at these grim events, and shrug its collective shoulders. But that has not been the mood of the day, because other things, Christian things, have also been burned over generations into the soul of the place, and have always been the framework of the day.

"First, the Christian truth, the fact of the incarnation - God coming among us and sharing the human lot. He also knows of the fragility of human existence, and of the apparent certainties on which we build our lives. But he also said to his disciples that as often as we give a cup of cold water, or any act of kindness, to one of these little ones, we do it to him. That was the teaching that led to those acts of bravery that still astonish us, young men at appalling risk being willing to look out for one another beyond the call of duty. 'As often as ye do it to the lease of these' ye to it unto me'. That is what Sir John Arkwirght means in his hymn 'O Valiant Heats' that we sing today. It is certainly no glorification of war: 'Still, through the veil, the Victor's pitying eyes, look down to bless our lesser calvaries'. Somehow, he was in it all; even this living hell he was willing to share. But, still more fundamental, of course, is the Easter truth of the Resurrection. In 1915, April 25 fell on the third Sunday after Easter. We meet today, in 2007, on the second Sunday. He not only shared a living hell; he also defeated it.

"Sometimes, on Gallipoli Sunday, a Christian priest can almost feel as if he were conducting some enormous funeral for all of those, more than 1,800 Fusiliers, who never returned from Gallipoli. There is that griping sense of waste, of incompleteness, of wonderful possibilities just snuffed out, which you always feel at the funeral of someone who has died young.

"And I know no other answer to it than the one which those young soldiers would have learnt from the little Testaments that they carried with them into battle: 'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."