Remembering those who have given up their lives for others during conflict is a key part of any culture, and especially during the month of November more emphasis is placed on paying respects to those from around the world who offer to fight for their country. Parades are held all across the UK, schools and workplaces often hold a minute of silence on the 11th to mark the end of the First World War, and of course there are those who volunteer to raise money to provide support for veterans and those who have lost family during war. One of these parades was held in Ashford, Surrey, this month, with members of the local community joining together for remembrance.


The parade, like most others, is normally held annually on the Sunday after the 11th of November, which this year fell on the 14th. Although COVID precautions meant that the in-person event couldn't take place last year, this year it was able to go on as normal. Those who came to watch were encouraged to social distance and wear face coverings, and the ceremony itself was cut from 1 hour to 40 minutes, but other than these changes everything was able to go ahead as normal.


Like most years the parade was started with a march by all those involved. The normal route of marching around the high-street had to be cut due to time constraints and restrictions, so the procession instead walked a shorter distance from the end of the high-street to the nearby war memorial. Once there, a brief ceremony was held consisting of music and a poem reading by a representative from Ashford Wide, the local organisation responsible for planning the event. This was followed by a 2-minute silence, after which the involved flag bearers from the British Legion lowered their flags for the Last Post.


Once the members had raised their flags once again, the ceremony for wreath laying began. One by one each member of the parade who had volunteered to lay a wreath stepped forward to place it around the base of the war memorial before stepping back into line. More than 15 wreathes were laid during the event, with members from different local communities taking part. These included members of Surrey County Council, cabinet members for Education and Learning, representatives from the Royal British Legion and Armed Forces, members of the Women's Institute and Ashford Wide groups and the Surrey Police Commissioner.


There was also a large amount of young people involved in the parade, such as police cadets, Girl Guides and Scouts. As a member of the local Rangers unit, I was chosen to represent 7th Ashford Guiding along with a Rainbow, a Brownie and a Guide. I was responsible for laying down our wreath as well as making sure our group was organised with each other when walking and that everyone knew what they were doing. Our part of the parade went well and to my surprise the Rainbow was great at standing still when she needed to, despite only being 6 years old!


Some other members of each unit also took part, with one person being involved in the flag display and two more acting as escorts who stood to the side during the ceremony.


After each wreath has been laid and we held another two minutes silence, the parade turned around to walk back up the high-street. Everyone was calm and collected when marching and most managed to walk in time together, which created a very neat and organised display. Each of the Girl Guiding representatives involved was awarded with a poppy badge, to act as a thank you for our participation. Once the crowds had dispersed, we were allowed to go back home to end what had certainly been a memorable morning.


Overall, the parade was a great display on the power of local communities. The last two years have caused many people to drift apart, so it was amazing to see the large group of people who were willing to come together for such an important cause. To be given the chance to participate in the event, one that I haven't been able to be a part of since 2015 when I left my Brownie unit, was a fantastic opportunity and I was delighted to be involved.