08/11/2015 Songs of Praise


08/11/2015

Bill Turnbull presents a special Remembrance programme, including the story of soldier Martyn Compton, who survived a Taliban rocket attack to become a racing driver.


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Transcript


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Hello, and welcome to a special Songs Of Praise

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here at the Imperial War Museum in London,

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as the nation honours those who have lost their lives

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in conflicts past and present.

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In today's programme, we'll meet an Afghanistan veteran

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who was described by Prince William as an inspiration

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and who, nearly a decade after suffering horrific burns

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in a rocket attack, is rebuilding his life as a racing driver.

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A year after their display at the Tower of London,

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Pam discovers how those poppies are still creating special memories.

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I like to think that one of these has got my brother's name on it.

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HE PLAYS THE LAST POST

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And nearly 100 years after it was first played to mark Armistice Day,

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we reveal the story of the Last Post.

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It's an incredibly haunting piece of music.

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Everybody recognises it,

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everybody instantly associates that with Remembrance.

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Our music today is inspired by Remembrance,

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including a special performance from the Exultate Singers.

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But our first hymn comes from the Royal Garrison Church in Aldershot.

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The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917

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and was originally intended to record

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Britain and the Empire's efforts and sacrifice in the Great War.

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With galleries and exhibitions set over six floors,

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today it charts all conflicts in which British and Commonwealth forces

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have been involved since 1914.

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One of its current exhibitions focuses on the war in Afghanistan,

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a conflict which proved life-changing

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for 31-year-old Martyn Compton.

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He suffered 75% burns

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after his patrol was ambushed by the Taliban.

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In 2006, I was serving in the Household Cavalry

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and the troop that I was in,

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of four wagons, four small armoured tanks...

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We got ambushed as we came into a village in Musa Qala.

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They basically set an IED -

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an improvised explosive device -

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which blew the wagon up,

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and unfortunately killing the three guys that were in it with me.

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Then I was a sitting duck, basically.

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They shot rocket grenades at me,

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which blew the engine up and engulfed me in flames.

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And I was very fortunate to then get out of that.

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When they got me back to the Chinook and got me airlifted away,

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I died officially three times. Extraordinary.

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How amazing that you are standing here at all today. Yeah.

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Martyn was in hospital for a full 12 months,

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and over the past nine years he has undergone extensive surgery,

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which is still ongoing.

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How many operations have you had to go through as part of your recovery?

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A ridiculous amount. It's probably...

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They measure it in hours, and it's probably up to the 500-hour mark.

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Martyn's story really struck a chord with Prince William,

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who served in the same regiment.

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And when, in April 2011,

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William was married at Westminster Abbey,

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Martyn and his wife Michelle were among the guests.

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And he's described you as an inspiration. Yeah, he has.

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For him to say that is obviously...

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It's brilliant for me but, yeah, it's just surreal.

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During his recovery in the past few years,

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Martyn 's developed a passion for motor racing

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and now it has given him a new focus.

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Motorsport's my life and we now have stepped up to car racing,

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formed a team called Team BRIT.

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Our ambitions are to get to Le Mans,

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be the first disabled, injured team to get to Le Mans

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and race the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours.

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Which will cost a bob or two.

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You had some help from an unexpected quarter, haven't you?

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That's right. I was very fortunate that Coldplay...

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Chris Martin, he read my story

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and got in contact, said that he needed to do something.

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Yeah, and he's backing us, so...

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At his side throughout the whole experience has been Michelle.

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Martyn's ordeal has been horrendous,

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obviously, from day one.

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It gets better over time, over the years.

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Archie and Coral have been, really, a godsend to both of us,

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because they keep both of our minds occupied

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and, you know, we're really, really happy as a family altogether.

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Despite Martyn's successful efforts to rebuild his life,

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he will never forget his friends and comrades.

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I lost three guys that day, and obviously you get close

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when you're out and about and doing the same job

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and you become good friends, you know?

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And to lose those guys is obviously a personal thing for me

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and it's a time to remember

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all those that didn't come home, you know?

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This is one of the museum's most striking exhibitions,

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which focuses on World War I.

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Since that war, the poppy has been adopted as a symbol of Remembrance,

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taken from the red flowers which sprang up on Flanders Fields.

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Well, last year a breathtaking display

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of more than 800,000 ceramic poppies

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at the Tower of London captured the nation's imagination.

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Pam Rhodes has been to meet their creator

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and two people for whom those poppies are particularly precious.

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When the exhibition of Poppies took over the Tower of London,

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no-one could have imagined the impact they would make.

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More than five million people visited the tower

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in the four months that they were on display.

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When it finished, the poppies were sold off,

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raising millions of pounds for charities.

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And now, many of the poppies are on display around the country,

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including this, the Wave,

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here at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

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The creation of the exhibition was a huge undertaking.

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Each of the poppies were individually handmade,

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with every one representing a member of the British or Colonial forces

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who lost their lives in the Great War.

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The idea was the brainchild of this man, artist Paul Cummings.

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I'm really happy that people have liked it

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and that people can express what they think about things.

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Because going to war

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is something I've never experienced

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and I hope I never will.

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But everybody did do it for us.

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And that's what we've got to do remember -

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that people have done this for a very long time.

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And they fought for what they believed in and what we have now.

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So, it's the memories of that.

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So, it was very costly for you,

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your blood, sweat and tears, really?

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Yeah, I did trap a finger... Well, I trapped my hand in a machine

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and lost my middle finger.

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But Derby has a very good hospital, to put them back together.

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One of the many people to have lost their lives during World War II

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was Flight Lieutenant Harry Chapman

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who, at the age of just 22, was killed in action

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when his Lancaster Bomber was shot down.

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Among those Harry left behind

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were his baby daughter Lesley

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and his 11-year-old brother Alan.

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Both were touched when they saw the exhibition in London last year

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and have made their way to Yorkshire to see the Wave.

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Alan, what can you tell us about your big brother, Harry?

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What sort of man was he?

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Well, I was 11 at the time that Harry was in the Air Force.

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He was always keen to tell me

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what it was like up above the clouds.

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Do you think that loss of your brother

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made an impact on you for the rest of your life? It did, yes.

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I always thought that he was someone that I could go to.

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if I was in trouble.

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But he was not there.

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There was nobody to go to.

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I wish I could hear his voice and things like that, and I can't.

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So Alan's the nearest I've got to him.

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What you two share is having a faith.

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How has that helped you, Alan, over the years,

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to come to terms with this?

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Well, it's helped me because you're not alone,

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there's someone there to help you.

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And there's someone there to turn to.

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Is it important to remember?

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You should never forget them, any of them.

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Oh, yeah. Never forget them.

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'Leslie and Alan wanted to take this opportunity

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'to thank the creator of the exhibition

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'and express their gratitude.'

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Hello. Hello, how are you?

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Hello, Paul. Nice to meet you. Hiya.

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I've brought mine with me. I was honoured to get one. Thank you.

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Thank you very much for coming up with the idea.

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I like to think that one of these

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has got my brother's name on it.

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You know, I know there's hundreds and thousands, but...

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They're all different. They're all different, yeah.

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It's a flower for a person,

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and the poppy in this country represents so much.

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# We will remember them

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# We will remember them

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# At the going down of the sun

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# And in the morning

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# We will remember them

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# They shall grow not old

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# As we that are left grow old

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# Age shall not weary them

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# Nor the years condemn

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# We will remember them

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# When you go home

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# Tell them of us and say

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# For your tomorrow

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# We gave our today

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# We will remember them

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# At the going down of the sun

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# And in the morning

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# We will remember them

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# We will remember them. #

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A very poignant and moving performance there

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from the Exultate Singers.

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Later in the programme, we'll reveal the story of the Last Post

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and a bugler from the Royal Marines

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will be explaining what makes it so special

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at this time of Remembrance.

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But, first, a hymn to remember those who've lost their lives

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in wars at sea.

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With more than 11 million photographic and sound items,

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the museum's archive charting Britain's involvement

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in conflicts over the past century is unrivalled.

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Tucked away here, there are personal stories,

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not only of those who lost their lives

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but also of those they left behind.

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And, as our next film shows, for one airman's sister

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this Remembrance Sunday has a very special significance.

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At least nine British military personnel have died

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after a British Hercules transport plane crashed

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shortly after leaving Baghdad.

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Ten years ago, Sergeant Robert O'Connor lost his life

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when his RAF plane was shot down by insurgents in Iraq.

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His sister Sarah will never forget the day she heard the news.

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We'd come in from celebrating my daughter's birthday.

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I put on the news.

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And I saw the words

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"a British Hercules has crashed."

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Quarter to four in the morning...

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..there was the knock at the door and...

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my mum was told those words that,

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sadly, lots of other parents have had to hear, which is

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"we regret to inform you...

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"that your son, Sergeant Robert O'Connor,

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"is missing in action, presumed dead."

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Amazingly, it was Iraq's first election day,

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and I'm very proud of that fact,

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because that day was all about peace.

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He was flying passengers from one airport to another.

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Unfortunately, terrorists shot at the plane

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and that, basically,

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penetrated the fuel tank.

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Sarah has been a Christian since she was young,

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but the loss of her brother Bob

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proved to be a huge test of her faith.

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I've always maintained a conversation with God.

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It hasn't been a regular conversation,

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but I've always had him near me.

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But after losing Bob, I really turned my back on Him.

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And even when I refused to feel,

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refused to listen,

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it's just been there.

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And then ...

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something will happen and it's the most amazing thing ever.

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To have that...moment of...

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oh, he hasn't left me...

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maybe he has been there all the way along.

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And Sarah has received even more support,

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but this time from an unexpected source.

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Every year, thousands of bikers

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converge on the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire

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to pay their respects to those who gave their lives

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serving their country.

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The gathering is called Ride To The Wall,

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and the event is now in its 10th year.

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Many of the bikers either served in the forces

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or are friends or family of those who lost their lives.

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We all come together, united, to give thanks

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and you arrive and there's 6,000 bikes.

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And there's, like, thousands and thousands

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and thousands of bikers.

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BUGLE PLAYS

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Central to the day is a service of Remembrance

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next to the arboretum's Armed Forces Memorial.

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We give to you, most merciful Father,

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thanks that you have put it into the hearts of us, your servants.

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Then, when we've had our Remembrance Service,

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all the bikers line up with their wreaths,

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ready to connect with their fallen friends,

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fallen family members,

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fallen strangers.

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And, you know, forces buddies, as they're queueing up,

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they connect with each other in the line.

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Something as simple as the freedom to choose to remember

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is something that's been given to us

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by our heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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That hymn, by Isaac Watts, was actually sung

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at the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

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and it's synonymous with Remembrance,

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as is our next piece of music,

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from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland.

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Now, it is perhaps the defining element of every Remembrance Sunday.

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And over the past century, it's grown to become

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the most emotionally charged piece of music performed at public ceremonies.

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The Last Post was originally just a functional signal

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performed at army camps to mark the end of the working day.

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But on that first Armistice Day, nearly a hundred years ago,

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that was all to change.

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The 11th of November, 1919,

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and crowds gather at the Cenotaph in London.

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They've responded to a call from King George V

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to mark the first anniversary of the end of the Great War.

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As both veterans and the public pay their respects,

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the two-minute silence is brought to an end

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by the playing of the Last Post.

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BUGLES PLAY THE LAST POST

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Since then, this iconic piece of music has become a key part

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of Remembrance ceremonies across Britain, the Commonwealth

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and many other countries.

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Here in Belgium, at the Menin Gate,

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this bugle call has been played every single evening since 1928.

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One person who knows exactly what it means to play the Last Post

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is Corporal Bugler Nathan Crossley.

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It's an incredibly haunting piece of music,

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played in the right environment it sounds fantastic.

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But everybody recognises it, everybody instantly associates that

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with Remembrance and with that sombre attitude.

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As a member of the Royal Marines Band,

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Nathan has performed several times at the Cenotaph

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in front of Her Majesty the Queen on Remembrance Sunday.

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But some of the most poignant occasions

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on which he is called upon to play the Last Post

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are at repatriation ceremonies.

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LAST POST PLAYS

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It's an incredibly unique scenario.

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Everybody seeing that body, effectively, for the first time,

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whether you know the individual or whether you're family.

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How important is it to you to play the Last Post, then,

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at a ceremony like that?

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Incredibly important.

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As a member of the Armed Forces, whether it's Army, Navy,

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Air Force, it doesn't matter -

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we're all part of one family and, as a family,

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that's how we say goodbye to each other.

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Well, that's all for this programme of Remembrance

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from the Imperial War Museum in London.

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And what more fitting way to end

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than with a special rendition of the Last Post

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from Corporal Bugler Nathan Crossley.

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Thank you for watching.

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HE PLAYS THE LAST POST

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'..Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, East Forties,

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Bill Turnbull presents a special Remembrance programme from the Imperial War Museum, including the story of soldier Martyn Compton who survived a Taliban rocket attack to become a racing driver. Prince William described him as "inspirational".


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