Three generations of the same family took part in Uckfield Concert Brass’s contribution to the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate during the band’s recent tour of Belgium.
Robin Morris, whose father fought in the First World War, laid a wreath on behalf of his family, including Nick, UCB’s musical director, and cornet player, Lottie.
Here they reflect on the ceremony, which remembers British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed around Ypres and whose graves are unknown.
Robin Morris, son
My thoughts were of my Dad, just 18 years of age, who marched along that road, would have heard the guns, felt the fear and all of it shared by his comrades. The hell he would have lived through and spared by God to come home, marry my Mum and give me life. I was born in 1929, when memories were still fresh and tears filled loved ones’ eyes of dreams not fulfilled. Of a Dad who came home to nothing, worked for a pittance and kept his memories to himself. As I held the poppy wreath and heard the bugles, I felt so humble, so thankful to God that he had spared my Dad. Yes, tears filled my eyes as the band played music that filled the air with sadness, yet hope for those who fell – who did not return – that they would ‘not be forgotten’ and the final Reveille for those few, like my Dad, who lived. No, I won’t forget them. God bless and keep their memory sacred.
Nick Morris, grandson
It was hard to absorb all the emotions as we stood there waiting to play: to vainly try to honour those that gave their all. Those who experienced the mud, the death, the honour, the stupidity, the terror and the heroism, could never have imagined we would, a hundred years later, try to find a worthy way to remember them. A special feeling you don’t want to experience too many times. A personal and a shared moment of tribute to my grandfather, to my father and to my daughter. A personal and collective moment of pride, sharing with the band and all the people who gathered there, a moment of such inadequate reflection but we did our best.
The power of music to capture emotion and a thousand thoughts was inescapable as the melodies and harmonies bounced around the great arch. An extraordinary experience to be a part of, to be never forgotten.
Charlotte Morris, great-granddaughter
I have no words to describe the heart-felt emotions at the Menin Gate. A hundred years ago, only a handful of the thousands of men to enter Flanders returned – my great-grandfather being one of them. On the 28th of May, I had the honour to play with Uckfield Brass Band to remember all those who gave their life, and what made this all the more poignant was that three generations of my family could show that respect. If my great-grandfather had not come back, my grandfather would not be alive today let alone myself. To see so many strangers unite in this ceremony and still be affected a hundred years later, when they themselves have no idea of the horrors of the war, was astounding. This has been a life-changing experience for me, as one of those oblivious to the cruelty of the events prior, and my thoughts go out to the many soldiers still missing beneath Flanders Fields.