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Solemn services to remember those who fought for our freedom

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When the call came to fight in the First World War, a remarkable 40 per cent of the men in Market Harborough joined up.

The small town, including Great Bowden and Little Bowden, must have been almost completely drained of young men 100 years ago.

Perhaps that is why the sacrifice of all those who fought – not just those who died – is recalled on the war memorial portico of the town’s Cottage Hospital.

It lists 1,658 names, from a 1914 male population of 4,000.

The difference must have been visible on the streets.

The men had disappeared.

When The Last Post sounded over Harborough on Monday this week, a crowd of about 150 people gathered at the town’s Grade II-listed war memorial at the hospital.

The solemn ceremony at the Coventry Road site began an evening of commemoration to remember the start of the First World War, 100 years ago this week.

The brief ceremony at the portico was conducted by the Rev John Morley, chairman of the Harborough branch of the Royal British Legion.

He recalled “all those from this community who were caught up in the courageous and tragic events of the First World War”.

Then, at the town’s Memorial Gardens off The Square, a plaque was unveiled that records the refurbishment of the pergola, completed recently by Harborough District Council.

Here a short speech by the chairman of Harborough District Council, Cllr Neville Hall, recalled the huge proportion of Harborough men who marched off to fight – and to die – “in places they had never heard of before”.

“The First World War has slipped beyond the fringes of living memory,” he told the crowd.

“We have to work hard to make sure we do not forget.”

The focus then shifted to St Dionysius Church in High Street, for a service of commemoration led by the Rev Richard Brand.

There were readings from the World War poets and an extract from local historian Barry Summers’ text, the Harboro’ Boys, about events in Harborough during 1914.

The church bells then rang out, included 254 tolls to mark the war deaths of local people.

The evening of commemoration drew attention again to the town’s listed war memorial portico.

Its future is uncertain, because the hospital where it is located will be sold off soon.

The Rev Morley said: “This memorial means a lot to the people of Harborough.

“It’s very significant, and very much in our thoughts at the moment, because this hospital will be surplus to requirements soon.”

A petition was launched earlier this year in a bid to save it.

Cllr Hall added: “ We must find a prominent position in town for this important memorial. I think that is what everyone on Harborough Council is working towards.”

In Great Bowden, the parish church commemorated the centenary at 6pm on Monday by tolling the church bells 45 times in memory of the 45 men from Great Bowden who died during the war.

 

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