HUNDREDS turned out on Sunday morning for a service of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country.

Under a bright autumn sky, it was the service medals, worn with pride by veterans and serving military personnel, and the blood red poppies of remembrance that gave colour to the crowd gathered around Alton’s Cairn War Memorial.

They were there to remember all those who had given their lives during the Great War, the Second World War, and the many conflicts thereafter, in the name of peace, justice and freedom.

Many have their names recorded “lest we forget” on war memorials around the country, but some remain unknown.

It was “the simple red, vibrant poppy” that took centre stage in the address, delivered this year by the Reverend Andrew Micklefield, vicar of the Parish of the Resurrection, who began by recalling the stage directions for the last ever scene in the last ever episode of the Blackadder TV comedy series in which Captain Blackadder led his company over the top in the First World War.

With explosions all around them, the soldiers disappeared into a Flanders field. Accompanied by the haunting rendition of the theme tune the colour fades away, to be hesitantly replaced by a field of vibrant red: the red of the Flanders poppy that “speaks across generations of sacrifice and remembrance” and yet speaks of life, ongoing, “a symbol of hope and resurrection”.

The ceremony had begun with an impressive parade, overseen by parade master Sergeant Tom Bagley of 613 Alton Squadron of the Air Training Corps.

Led by Royal British Legion outriders on their poppy-bedecked motorbikes, the parade gathered in the Market Square before marching down Market Street and up the High Street, to the rallying beat of the drums and bugles of the Alton Boys’ Brigade Band. They were followed by the Union flag, and the standards of the Royal British Legion and the RAF Association, the Army and Air Force cadets, members of the emergency services and hundreds of children, attached to the uniformed youth groups of the town.

They were welcomed at the Cairn by a swelling crowd of wellwishers, by the music of the Salvation Army Band, by the voices of the St Lawrence Church Choir, and by Rev Micklefield who, in setting the scene, asked his congregation to remember not just the fallen but those who were injured and traumatised, whether they be military or civilians caught up in the conflicts.

He was supported by Reverend Chris Bradish, who led the prayers, and Liz George, lay worker from the Methodist Church, who delivered the lesson.

Following the reading and the address, the flags were dipped before the war memorial for the two-minute silence, only roused by the wailing of the siren for the laying of the wreaths.

Announced by Gill Thorne, they were led by Alton mayor Matthew Bayliss, who laid a wreath on behalf of Alton Town Council. He was followed on behalf of East Hampshire District Council by Glynis Watts; on behalf of Hampshire County Council by Andrew Joy; Damian Hinds MP: the family of Ernest George Horlock VC; by family and friends; by officers of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, the Royal Marines Association, and the RAF; of the Royal Hampshire Regiment and the Royal Air Force Association: and by ex-servicemen representing the Alton branch of the Royal British Legion, the RBL Club and the RBL Riders.

There were wreaths laid too by representatives of Hampshire Constabulary, Hampshire Fire and Rescue and South Central Ambulance Service; the Salvation Army, the Quakers, and St John Ambulance; Alton Masonic Centre, Alton Rotary Club, the Alton Community Association, Alton Lions, Alton Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Mid Hants Railway, Alton WI, Alton Townswomen’s Guild, and Alton Conservative Club; the Army Cadets, the Air Training Corps, the Boys and Girls Brigade, the Scouts Association, Guides Association, Eggar’s School, Amery Hill School, Alton Convent, Alton College, Alton Football Club, and Manor Colts Football Club.

To mark the occasion, schoolchildren then laid poppy crosses for each of the men named on the war memorial who lost their lives during the Great War in 1916.

As the two long buglers, Major Neil Woolacott of the Salvation Army and student Nick Budd, delivered the haunting sound of The Last Post, the standards were lowered, and RBL member Bob Graham read a poignant poem from the conflict in Afghanistan. He then stood before the Cairn to read the Kohima Epitaph followed by the Legion exhortation. Reveille sounded, the standards were hoisted, and voices raised for the rallying hymn ‘Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven’.

The blessing was given by Rev Micklefield and was followed by a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

The parade then departed, back down the hill to the Market Square, led by the Band of the Boys’ Brigade and the Royal British Legion standard bearers, all accompanied by the sound of spontaneous applause.