Remembrance Sunday Songs of Praise


Remembrance Sunday

To mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion, Aled Jones meets the veteran who has waited a lifetime for a memorial to his fallen comrades.


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We're in Colchester in Essex for Songs Of Praise

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on this important Sunday.

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Its history as a garrison town dates back to the Romans

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and it's been a major army base since the Napoleonic Wars.

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Today it's home to around 3,500 soldiers.

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Their dedication to duty,

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their courage in the face of danger and their loyalty to their country

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is shared not only by those who serve today,

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but also by the generations of men and women

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who've been prepared to lay down their lives for us.

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Today, we remember all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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On this Remembrance Sunday, we'll be marking

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the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.

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We'll be meeting the veteran who's waited 65 years

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to pay tribute to his fallen comrades.

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And the young war widow whose faith is helping her face the future.

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Arms high. Squeeze your knees.

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Let's get those feet together, get those knees together.

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of British troops in Afghanistan.

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These soldiers are the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment,

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part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, based here in Colchester.

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Arms up high. Feet together. Squeeze your toes, toes up. Good.

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The brigade has completed four tours of duty in Afghanistan -

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the most any unit has carried out.

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Having just recently returned,

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they know only too well the human cost of war.

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I'll be speaking to some of them later.

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For our hymn singing today, we've gathered at St Botolph's Church.

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In the congregation are those who've served their country in the past,

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those who serve today and those who may well serve in the future.

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Accompanying our singing, I'm delighted to say

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we have members of the Band of the Parachute Regiment.

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In World War II, the vital task of bombing Germany fell to the RAF,

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the brave young men of Bomber Command.

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The only way we could attack the Third Reich after Dunkirk

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was in the air.

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So Bomber Command was set that duty,

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to attack the German industrial estate

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and the morale of the German people.

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And that continued out throughout the war.

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Douglas Radcliffe signed up when he was 17 years old.

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You didn't have to fly.

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You weren't conscripted to get in that aircraft

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and go on an operation - you volunteered for it.

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And the whole crew...you joined a crew and that was it.

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You were comfortable with that crew.

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Bomber Command lost 55,573 men.

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Their average age was just 22.

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My faith in God helped me during the war and it helps me today.

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It's constant. I can't explain it. I really don't have to explain it.

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I don't think anybody really needs to explain that. It's there.

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I think it's there for a lot of people who don't even think about that.

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Well, two members of my first crew are buried in Germany.

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I have never visited them and I won't visit them.

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I just don't think I should,

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I couldn't do that, I don't wish to do it.

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Although it sustained heavy losses,

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Bomber Command has never had its own permanent memorial.

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Now, more than 65 years later,

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Douglas has been working with architect Liam O'Connor.

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Marvellous. Very proud to be part of it, really am.

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I think you've done a marvellous job

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and I particularly like the sculptor looking into the open sky.

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It's a crucial part of the architectural concept

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-that the roof is open immediately above the sculpture.

-Yeah.

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Finally, a memorial is being built,

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and is due to be unveiled in June next year.

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To think that, after all these years, we are now going to see

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the memorial in Green Park,

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in the best part of London.

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It's everything. It means everything, not just to me,

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but to the tens of thousands of people who've supported it,

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and certainly the veterans who are approaching the end of their lives

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hopefully will see that memorial go up to their comrades.

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Kate Whittaker is a member of the Band of the Parachute Regiment,

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which is based here in Colchester.

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The band are all trained soldiers and musicians.

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On the brigade's recent tour of duty,

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they went out to Afghanistan to entertain the troops.

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We get off a helicopter and turn up and go,

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"Right, we're the Para Band, we're doing a gig."

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It took a lot of people by surprise, especially when they were told

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Paras were coming and then found out they'd got a band instead.

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She was following in her brother's footsteps.

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Joe Whittaker had been to Afghanistan

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as a soldier in the Parachute Regiment.

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Joe got a scholarship to go to Sandhurst,

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but for him, I think he felt that, to lead others,

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he really needed to be in their shoes first.

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He didn't feel he could send somebody out to put their life on the line

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if he'd not gone through the same experience himself.

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I was so aware of how important it was for Joe, being a Para,

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and what they go through to get their beret, and he was so proud of that.

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Joe was killed in an explosion when he was out on patrol.

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I couldn't really believe that it was actually true.

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And it was just shock and not being able to do anything.

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Just feeling completely helpless, really.

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When Joe died, I had a really strong feeling

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that I wanted to contribute something to the funeral.

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And so I wrote a song for Joe.

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His friends built a cross.

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While I was there, I had the opportunity to go and see it.

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And I was completely blown away. There were about

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12 or so crosses, and a lot of them had loads of names on them.

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And Joe's was kind of in the middle

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and there was just his name on this plaque.

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It was just fantastic to be able to go and see it.

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To be able to stand in front of the band and say to people,

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"This is my brother, he was brilliant, he was fantastic

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"and I'm going to show you what he was like," that for me is a really great thing.

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I think it's important to have faith, and if I didn't,

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then everything would be a lot worse to deal with.

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It's that sort of reassurance that Joe is still there in some respect

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and, you know, not in pain, and not suffering.

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You know, that for me, is such a comfort.

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# O brother man Fold to thy heart thy brother

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# Where pity dwells The peace of God is there

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# To worship rightly is to love each other

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# Each smile a hymn Each kindly deed a prayer

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# For he whom Jesus loved has truly spoken

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# The holier worship which he deigns to bless

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# Restores the lost and binds the spirit broken

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# And feeds the widow and the fatherless

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# Follow with reverent steps the great example

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# Of him whose holy work was doing good

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# So shall the wide earth seem our Father's temple

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# Each loving life a psalm of gratitude

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# Then shall all shackles fall the stormy clangour

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# Of wild war music o'er the earth shall cease

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# Love shall tread out the baleful fire of anger

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# And in its ashes plant the tree of peace. #

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It was back in April

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when 16 Air Assault Brigade came home from Afghanistan.

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In the six months that they were out there, they lost 22 men.

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How important is it for you guys to have a memorial garden like this one we're standing in?

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It's very important for us.

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Every year, at this time of the year, we all get together

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and gather in places like this and say prayers for our fallen.

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Do you ever think of your own mortality?

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Generally, you go out and the expectancy is not

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that you're going to be one of the people who ends up being fallen.

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Um, it makes you take a step back and look at what your job is,

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for sure.

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For most people, the idea of going out to Afghanistan during wartime would be hell on earth.

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Is it the same for you?

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Yeah, it is horrible when you go there.

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The height of summer and winter are the worst conditions.

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The amount of kit the blokes carry, over 100lb of kit,

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-they're suffering all the time.

-A lot of people would say,

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"Where you find war, you obviously don't find God."

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-What do you say to that?

-I pity those without faith

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because, for myself, when times get really difficult,

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I know I can turn to God to give me inner strength.

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I hope that he never puts me in a situation

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I wouldn't be able to handle, rather than giving me protection.

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Yeah, so I thrive off the knowledge that he's there to support me.

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When you see your fellow soldiers fall, do you ever think to yourself,

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"Why is God letting this happen?"

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No. It's not God's fault. He can't protect everyone,

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if you want to look at it like that. He can't look after everyone.

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I never pray for God to protect me.

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I pray that God guides me to do his will in a moral way.

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I also pray that he protects my muckers.

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Don't mourn the fallen, just thank God that such men existed. And I do.

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Remembrance Sunday is probably the most important day of the year.

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Has been since the end of World War I.

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For 90 years, the Royal British Legion has been the custodian of remembrance.

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It was formed to help veterans of the Great War

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who were left injured and unable to work.

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In 1921, they launched the Poppy Appeal

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to raise money for servicemen and women and their families.

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They're still supporting people today,

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fundraising in increasingly dramatic ways.

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The Royal British Legion remains an important organisation

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for many of those who have served in past conflicts.

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And to mark their anniversary, we sing a hymn

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that was written especially for them.

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The Royal British Legion has been a help and support to Kirianne Curley.

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I know they're always by my side.

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Their slogan is "Shoulder to shoulder with those who serve".

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Well, very much so. I've always felt that they've stood by me.

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Her husband, Stephen, was killed in Afghanistan.

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Stephen left when William Arthur was eight weeks old.

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So we didn't have a huge amount of time together.

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William Arthur was very young when Stephen deployed.

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I was very much in limbo.

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It was kind of a blip before we could start our family life together.

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I'd been praying for Stephen and for his protection the whole time he was out there.

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It was something I did every day.

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And the day he was killed, I prayed a lot more than I ever have before.

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Believing in God and having prayed for Stephen's protection,

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and then Stephen being killed, made me

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really struggle with the concept of God answering our prayers.

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'However, it hasn't stopped me having a faith.'

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-Look!

-A cat.

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'There's a common misconception that having a child makes this situation easier.

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'It actually makes it a lot harder.'

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I think people are very shocked when they find out that I am a war widow.

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This is what one looks like.

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There's a lot of us knocking about who are young,

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often with young children.

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When my son grows up and he asks me, "Why did Daddy die in a warzone?"

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I'll tell him that Stephen went out there knowing what he was doing.

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He was a hugely experienced soldier.

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I'll let William Arthur know that his dad went out there to do a job

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and he believed in the good of what he was doing.

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And that's what gives me comfort, and I hope it will give him comfort as well.

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# Back when I was a child

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# Before life removed all the innocence

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# My father would lift me high

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# And dance with my mother and me And then

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# Spin me around till I fell asleep

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# Then up the stairs he would carry me

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# And I knew for sure I was loved

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# If I could steal one final glance

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# One final step

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# One final dance with him

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# I'd play a song that would never, never end

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# Cos I'd love, love, love

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# To dance with my father again

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# Sometimes I'd listen outside her door

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# And I'd hear how Mama would cry for him

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# I'd pray for her even more than me

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# I'd pray for her even more than me

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# I know I'm praying for much too much

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# But could you send back the only man she loved

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# I know you don't do it usually

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# But, dear Lord, she's dying

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# To dance with my father again

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# And every night I fall asleep

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# This is all I ever dream. #

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They shall grow not old As we that are left grow old

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Age shall not weary them Nor the years condemn.

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At the going down of the sun And in the morning

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We will remember them.

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We will remember them.

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When you go home Tell them of us and say,

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"For your tomorrow We gave our today."

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TRUMPETER PLAYS "LAST POST"

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My brothers and sisters, may the road rise with you.

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May the wind be always at your back.

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May the rain fall softly upon your fields.

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And until we meet again, may God keep you safe in the hollow of his hands.

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And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

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be upon you and remain with you always.

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-Amen.

-Amen.

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And on the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion, and the first Poppy Appeal,

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we give thanks to all those who have made sacrifices

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in conflicts both past and present.

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And we remember all those who laid down their lives for our freedom.

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Next week, Eamonn Holmes returns to his home, the city of Belfast,

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and the parish church of St Thomas,

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where he'll be exploring the theme of doubt to belief.

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He also visits an enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns.

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And there's music from the choristers

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of St Peter's Cathedral, Schola Cantorum.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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To mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion and the first ever poppy appeal, Aled Jones visits the garrison town of Colchester, to meet the veteran who has waited a lifetime for a memorial to his fallen comrades. He also hears from soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan.


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