Anzac Remembrance Service at Cambridge City Cemetery is poignant reminder of war losses
A deeply moving ceremony took place this weekend at Cambridge City Cemetery off the Newmarket Road for the men and women from Australia and New Zealand who gave their lives to protect this country during World War 2.
The Anzac Remembrance Service – the first at the site for four years – was conducted on Saturday morning by the Revd Alan Jesson, county chaplain of the Cambridgeshire Royal British Legion and chaplain of Ely squadron’s RAF Air Cadets, with music performed by the Cambridge Citadel Band of the Salvation Army.
Wreaths were laid by the deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Christopher Walkinshaw; the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Jennifer Crompton; the Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Russ McPherson; Daniel Zeichner MP; Air Chief Marshal (rtd) Sir Michael Graydon; plus representatives of the Royal British Legion, the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA), plus cadets, relatives and friends of the fallen.
The chairman of the Cambridge Branch of RAFA, David Bailey, who greeted the assembly, explained the historical backdrop to the occasion which took place ahead on Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day on April 25.
“The service personnel are buried there after the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – having been renamed from Imperial War Graves – was established between the wars. During the war a large proportion of the RAF’s Bomber Command crews were piloted by servicemen from Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and many of them sadly lost their lives.
“There were 50 airfields around Cambridge during the war and 200 airfields in East Anglia. Bourn airfield was one of the biggest, along with Wratting, Wyton, Foxton, Fowlmere, Bottisham – there were one million people serving in RAF by the end of WW2.
“Altogether three are 750 airmen and women buried in the [main] cemetery.
“They include 250 Australians in the RAF as part of the Royal Australian Air Force, 80 New Zealanders from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and 89 Canadians from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“Many of them came over from the Commonwealth at the start of the war when we were on our own. There are also 180 burials from WW1 in scattered around other parts of the site, of whom 15 are Anzac graves.”
The service included readings from Australian representative Lt Rodney Davis; New Zealand representative Leone Isaacson; and Sir Michael Graydon, ahead of the Last Post.
During The Bidding, the outdoor congregation was reminded that “the men and omen of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces joined in the defence of the freedoms we now enjoy in places including Gallipoli, Palestine, Flanders, El Alamein, Kanchanaburi, Greece, Crete, Korea, Borneo, Vietnam and more recently in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, where they have responded to a call to defend the values we old dear”.
The congregation was reminded by Sir Michel Graydon that, since the last Anzac service held at Cambridge City Cemetery in 2018, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen have been added to the list of places where war rages.
After the wreaths were laid the words of Kemal Ataturk – “After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well” – were read by Group Captain Serkan Virlan, Air Attache at the Turkish Embassy.
Group Captain Virlan added that it was the duty of those present “to teach our kids how horrible wars are”.
“When you go home remember to tell them, ‘for your tomorrow, we gave our today’,” he said.
Those congregated at the cemetery then joined in the Act of Commitment read by the Chaplain. This was followed by the Australian national anthem, the New Zealand national anthem, the Turkish national anthem and the national anthem of Great Britain, performed by the Salvation Army band in the area of the cemetery reserved for WW2 servicement and women.
One of the congregation, Danica Ellicott, an Australian living in Cambridge and working as a liaison officer for the Australian Department of Defence, said of the occasion: “As an Australian, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to gather today in commemoration of the fallen, alongside New Zealand, Turkish, and British counterparts.
“Anzac Day is our opportunity to stop and reflect on wars past and present, in the hope that we will make better decisions for our collective future.”