28 October 2023

Just two engagements for the Mayor of Trowbridge last week.

The first of these was on Wednesday evening, when, as the “ex-officio” Honorary President of the Trowbridge Leer (Germany) Twinning Association, I attended a meeting at the Lamb Inn on Mortimer Street.

The purpose of this meeting is to go over some of the arrangements for next year’s Twinning Association visit to Leer. Next year marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the signing of Trowbridge’s Twinning Charter with Leer in Ostfriesland, and both our “twinners” and their German counterparts are keen to mark the occasion.

One of the most important and relevant paragraphs in the Twinning Charter with Leer reads “We reaffirm our efforts at a local level to strengthen the friendly relations between our association members and citizens of our two towns”. Having twice now visited Leer, I can honestly say that our German friends take this affirmation as seriously as we do. Relations between Trowbridge and Leer are excellent at the Twinning Association level, at the council-to-council level, and at the mayor-to-mayor (Burgermeister) level. We are genuine friends.

But not only will a delegation from Trowbridge be visiting Leer next year, but I also hope to welcome visitors from Leer to my Civic Dinner here in Trowbridge next March.

We will also hopefully soon celebrate the start of scholastic visits by students from Leer to Trowbridge. This is something that we should be very proud of, and I personally would like to thank all those who’ve worked hard to progress this from an aspiration to a realistic opportunity.

Twinning is important. It’s outward-looking. We can compare ourselves with other towns in other countries. We look at their way of doing things and learn from their successes. But it’s a two-way street. We can offer our partners an insight into our lives and culture. We share, and because we all share, we all benefit.

If you are interested in becoming involved in Trowbridge’s twinning activities with Germany (Leer), France (Charenton-le-Pont), Morocco (Oujda), or Poland (ElblÅg), please get in touch and I’ll introduce you to the relevant group.

Then there was Friday. Friday was the day of (or rather the evening of) Trowbridge’s Festival of Remembrance in Lansdown Hall at the Civic. This was a three-hour concert, celebration, and act of remembrance, with all proceeds from ticket sales and on-the-night donations going to the Royal British Legion and SSAFA (the Soldiers’, Sailors’, and Airmen’s Families Association).

The evening was introduced by Air Vice Mashall Martin Clarke and featured music and songs performed by the Steeple Belles, the Warminster Military Wives Choir, and the Salisbury Royal British Legion Band.

There was a very poignant address from Squadron Leader (Ret’d) Phil Kerrison recounting the history of Operation Chastise, the attack on the Möhne, Eder, Sorpe, and Ennepe dams of the Ruhr in May 1943 by 617 Squadron *The Dambusters” based at RAF Scampon in Lincolnshire. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters raid, and the use of Barnes Wallace’s “bouncing bomb” against the dams of the Ruhr has become the stuff of legend. What we tend to forget is the 53 young airmen killed that night and the fact that Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who led the raid, was himself only 24 years old at the time.

The Revered Jake Eggertson, the Vicar of St James’ Church in Trowbridge, conducted a Drumhead Service, and RBL Wiltshire County President General Sir Jack Deverell read the Kohima prayer, followed by a two-minute silence and the reveille.

Now, I’m not one for glorifying war. To me, there’s nothing glorious about it. War is vile, and there is nothing to glorify in its execution. However, I’m all for remembering and honouring those who have lost their lives in conflict and war. After all, most of them never have any say in their fate. They went where they were sent, and they followed orders from above when they got there. They served with honour.

I was therefore very happy to stand there and pay my respects to all those who have died in conflict. We should never forget what they lost or what they had taken from them because it’s only by keeping their memory alive that we remember the human cost of war.

I’m not saying war is never justified. All I’m saying is that it’s never glorious.

In the words of the late Jimi Hendrix, “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will then know peace”.

That’s it for now, so until next time… keep safe, and please, be kind to each other.

 

Image courtesy of Trevor Porter

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