Remembrance 2014

A Note on Remembrance Weekend 2014
It was a privilege to represent the Society at a number of the special events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1. Around 15 members of the Society attended the concert and services at the Cenotaph and the Minster which, uniquely, were jointly conducted by English and German Church representatives.
The programme of events had been drawn up over the last 12 months by Hilary Barber,Vicar of Halifax, and the Lutheran Church in Aachen, in conjunction with the Mayor’s office at Calderdale Council, the British Legion, the Community Foundation and other organisations and individuals in Britain and Germany. As a result, probably for the first time in Britain, representatives from the German Church, Ministry of Defence and Civic Leaders (from Aachen) were directly involved in the commemorative events in a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness between Britain and Germany. This may come to be seen as of historic significance. The twinning between Halifax and Aachen was instrumental in bringing this joint initiative about.
In summary, the programme was;

Friday evening – Mayor (Councillor Pat Allen) and Deputy Mayor of Calderdale (Councillor Malcolm James) welcomed the Mayor of Aachen (Dr Margrethe Schmeer) who is one of three Mayors that support the Oberbürgermeister, to Halifax at an informal meal.

Saturday – German visitors went to see the WW1 exhibition at Bankfield Museum, had a guided tour of the town centre and attended a civic reception by the Mayor of Calderdale in the Town Hall. In the evening they attended a Remembrance concert at the Minster which featured the Halifax Choral Society.

Sunday- Civic leaders from both towns and German soldiers took part in the procession from the Town Hall to the Cenotaph where poppy wreaths were laid by both Mayors. German and British soldiers stood side-by-side on the Cenotaph steps in shared remembrance. Hannegret Stuckenberg and I laid wreaths on behalf of our respective Societies.

This was followed by a service in the Minster where the sermon was given by Pastor Jens-Peter Bentsin, from the Monschau area. It was remarkable for the humility and candour about German guilt for two World Wars before a congregation of British citizens and members of the German Government and armed services. A lunch was provided by the Community Foundation at Dean Clough where there was musical entertainment before the German visitors headed home.
The German visitors included;

The Mayor of Aachen and her husband,
Members of the Lutheran Church of the Rhineland accompanied by a reporter/photographer,
Representatives of the Bundestag and German Embassy in London,
The German Consul
Members of the German Defence Ministry, including a detachment from a garrison near Aachen
Hannegret Stuckenburg and Karlheinz Dannert from the Aachen Halifax/Calderdale Partnerschaft.
Overall impressions

1) The German delegations were deeply moved by the significance of Remembrance 2014 and honoured to take part. There is no equivalent annual event in Germany. The friendship spontaneously offered by Halifax people and organisations also made a big impact.

2) The twinning link between Halifax and Aachen is now better known amongst civic leaders in Halifax and Aachen and the many individuals/organisations attending the events, particularly due to the frequent references made to it by Rev Hilary Barber, including an interview he gave on ITV Calendar News and in the concert Programme Introduction.

3) Dr Schmeer (who has responsibilities for cultural and representational matters for the city) indicated that she and the Oberbürgermeister, Marcel Philipp, have discussed how the link with Halifax may be developed and taken forward but there was no time for discussions of this nature during the weekend.
Geoff Barnes

Vice-Chair, Halifax Aachen Society