LARGE crowds lining the streets, bands marching, regiments, veterans, community groups and civic dignitaries standing in silence have become the norm for Llanelli on Remembrance Sunday.
This is the year of Covid-19 and the norm as we are constantly told has been reinvented, renewed.
The impact of the pandemic has been felt across the world and business is most certainly not going on as usual.
The scene at the Town Hall in Llanelli was a sombre one. The streets all but deserted on a fresh, crisp autumn morning.
There were smatterings of red blending in with the gold of the autumn leaves, the hardy ones still clinging on to life, while the majority lay on the floor ready for a time when someone, somewhere comes along and sweeps them up. A juxtaposition for the way society lays in wait for a vaccine or an end at least to the freezing of our freedom, the freedom so many gave their lives for in distant lands.
Governments tell us that we are in the grip of a hidden killer. No obvious badge or emblem to identify the enemy save for a microscopic image of a virus, which we are told is doing as much damage as the deadliest machine gun in a field in France.
Llanelli managed to put on a service. The First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford promised to honour the pre-organised services despite the lockdown ending on Monday, November 9th.
Thirty people including Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters were ensconced in the grounds of the Town Hall, which had been cordoned off to anyone else. Stickers on the floor ensured that everyone present remained socially distant. A small crowd gathered outside, some peering through the railings watching what must surely have been the smallest ever Remembrance Sunday service on record.
Just across the road service men and women stood, watched, and waited for the end of the service so that they could enter and pay their respects.
No bands, no music apart from the last post played through a tannoy.
“This was no less important, no less special, no less poignant” said Reverend Eldon Phillips.
It was as poignant as any other remembrance occasion. We remember wherever we are. Obviously because of the circumstances, there were restrictions. It was a great privilege and honour to be leading the service.
Reverend Eldon Phillips
“I hope that Remembrance services will continue, as they are important in our life. It is a difficult time. All our thoughts go out to those who are finding it difficult. Loneliness is a problem. So many agencies and charities go out of their way to help people who are finding it difficult at these times.”
It is an occasion when many people turn out. It was carefully organised and it was very moving. It is important we continue to remember.
Nia Griffith MP
As ever, the Town Council has done a good job. It was as sombre as ever. There was a smattering of people watching. It did feel that this was a very strange year.
Lee Waters MS
Organiser Bob Thomas said: “It was quite humbling to be inside knowing that normally we have thousands here. It was important we do not forget and that we did this not say it was too hard, too difficult. It was quite sad but these are the times we live in. It was all about remembering and that is what we did today.”
These were scenes being borne out in communities across Wales. In Pontyates in the Gwendraeth Valley just over twenty people gathered to pay their respects. Jennifer Williams (pictured) said that the event had been quiet, dignified and respectful. There was no church service but the message from the vicar during the service at the war memorial was one of hope for the future and a Covid-19 free world.
In Ammanford it was another quiet occasion. Cllr Rob James attended on behalf of Carmarthenshire Labour. He said: “Today we all remember and honour those that sacrificed so much for our freedom.
“Whilst our public commemorations in Carmarthenshire were scaled back in light of Coronavirus, it has been clear that individuals have been paying their respects with flags being flown and posters placed in windows to ensure that we never forget those sacrifices.
“As we mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War, we are forever in the debt of those that protected our nation.
“Our armed forces have stood shoulder to shoulder with our key workers in the battle against Coronavirus and I want to say thank you to the those that have served and those continuing to serve our country.”
The act of remembrance has been a solid part of our lives and serves to remind us of the sacrifices made by young men and young women who served during a number of wars across the world. Today’s war is one on a pandemic. Those in the front line bare no arms, they do not shield behind armoured tanks. They serve while leading as normal a life as possible, going home to their loved ones trying not to show the despair and pain they are enduring. When the young men returned from the Great War they hardly spoke of the horrors they had witnessed. The same was true of those who returned from the Second World War. If any lessons are to be learned from wars, no matter if they are armed conflicts or the battle against Covid-19, talking is more important than ever. Communicating with those who find themselves in isolation is an essential act, upon which, we should be focusing our attentions on. Remember those who died but it is just as important for us to remember the living.
Photos. Elkanah Evans
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