2018 WWI Centenary – Bude’s tribute to the soldiers who served during WW1

By Johanna Jackson:

How could Bude honour the soldiers who served, fought, survived and died in World War I?

Harry Pearce from Budehaven School had a dream, which was realised by our huge local community team. So many volunteers had clearly been busy in Bude over the past few weeks; school-children, parents and so many members of the community, and their families, hand-made hundreds and thousands of fabric poppies. Thanks to Harry’s organisation, the Bude Poppy Wave became our community tribute and can be seen stretched down Shalder Hill, in front of the Cenotaph War Memorial in Bude.

Organised by Harry and supported by Clair from the Kitchen Front in Bude, volunteers gathered together from 11 am on Sunday morning, in Budehaven School’s Netball Dome; spirits were high and everyone knuckled down to the task in hand, as the hand-made poppies with threads attached, could start to be tied onto the huge camouflage netting.

So, there we were, children and adults alike, kneeling, bending and sitting all over the netting, tying on every hand-made fabric poppy, whilst ensuring they were secure enough to withstand the wintery winds we get in Bude. Whilst the tying-on was taking place, a fabulous production line of volunteers began the task of sewing and glueing yet more ties onto the poppies that were missing them. It was a massive effort and following lots of patience and nimble fingers, hundreds of poppies could be added to the stash of thousands that were beginning to turn the green camouflage netting into a sea of red and green.

It was an exceptionally rewarding experience to be involved with. The poppies were amazing; so many different sizes and fabulous designs, all created with care and creativity. Some sported the handwritten names of the children who had made them. That alone was a moving sight. The young aware of and honouring the old. Everyone was willing and eager to help each other, passing along more poppies as they were finished by the glue and sewing teams, whilst looking for and filling the less populated spots on the netting.

With so many beautiful handmade and very individual poppies on display, some of the children were in awe of and pointing out different poppies to each other. I also heard one young girl saying how satisfying it was to tie the poppies onto the netting. It was a surprising comment from one so young, yet it made my heart lift at her enthusiasm. Volunteers chatted as we worked, finding out how we each heard about the event and relaying stories of service: Naval, Army and some still in service with HM Coastguard.

As I tied each poppy onto the netting, I also found myself thinking that for every poppy we were tying onto the netting that day, a brave soldier had lost his life during those awful years of WWI. It was a small thing that we were doing, but it felt like a huge honour to all soldiers who had served and lost their lives, as well as those who had survived, many with life-affecting injuries.

Our efforts, while small, mean so much. It is important that we never forget to feel thankful for the sacrifices of all those who fought for our country; they fought to ensure that we, their future generations, could be free from the oppression of invading forces.

Just around 3 pm, having tidied away the boxes, threads and glue guns, we each stood looking at the sea of poppies stretched out in front of us. It was clear to me that we were all in awe of how amazing they looked; the silence as we all gazed across, was a very moving moment and as Clair played Winston Churchill’s World War II speech: “We will fight them in the trenches…” so the realisation of those sacrifices became even more real. It was a poignant and very proud moment.

Our next task was to roll-up the huge netting and picking it up, with a person every few feet along the whole length of it, we all proudly carried our tribute along the streets to Shalder Hill. The falling rain didn’t faze anyone; we were proud to do our bit. Of course, thanks must also go to Bude and Stratton Town Council who enthusiastically and promptly approved the use of Shalder Hill for this wonderful memorial, which was greatly appreciated by the organisers of the Poppy Wave. Officers made a great effort to contact all councillors and approval was gained within 24 hours, avoiding the need for a delay until the next official BSTC meeting. This was a fabulous effort by them and our BSTC Councillors, topped off by the Mayor himself, Bob Willingham, who also joined the chain of volunteers to walk the Poppy Wave to its final resting place. A great team effort all round!

The ones on the table are the 92 that my family and I made on Saturday afternoon. We had a little production line going, with my sister, brother and his wife, and daughter.

As the poppy tribute was spread out below the Bude Cenotaph War Memorial, our work was almost done. All that remained was the turning over of those poppies that had become twisted during their journey and the pegging down of the netting. It was perfect.

If anyone would like to add their own tribute, there is still plenty of space to tie your fabric poppy to the top of the netting, and your tributes are welcomed, but please do take care not to venture down the hill.

The end result of Bude’s Poppy Wave is awesome! It is our community tribute to the soldiers we will never forget. The soldiers who gave their service and their lives, so that ours could be free. Thank you, each and every one of you!

Photos from Johanna Jackson.

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