Lest We Forget

by Gethin Thomas November. 11, 2020 520 views

[98-365] 11th. November 2020- Armistice Day. Sorry for the photo quality, I just found myself by accident in Dartmouth just at the moment of the Armistice Day ceremony with only my phone to hand. Of course it was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, although this had slipped my mind because we had already had Remembrance Sunday when most of the National commemorations are held. It was a quiet affair with not many in attendance, just a few town officials and a handful of bystanders. Larger gatherings had been discouraged.

This is the Town Crier of Dartmouth below, you can tell because he has the official insignia on his face mask, also his First Lady, I'm not sure if Town Criers spouses have an official designation.

A town crier is a person who is employed by a town council to make public announcements in the streets. The crier can also be used in court or official announcements. Town criers were protected by royalty, as they sometimes brought bad news such as tax increases. To this day, any town crier in the British Commonwealth is protected under old English law that they are "not to be hindered or heckled while performing their duties". To injure or harm a town crier was seen as an act of treason against the ruling monarchy. The term "Posting A Notice" comes from the act of the town crier, who having read his message to the townspeople, would attach it to the door post of the local inn. Criers often dress elaborately, a tradition known from the 18th century, in a red and gold robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat.

In this case Les and Liz Ellis. Dartmouth’s very own award winning town crier, Les Ellis, features in thousands of photos all around the world! When in his colourful regalia the larger than life character gets mobbed by tourists. Les is a retired police detective who has chased gangs of criminals around London and used to go drinking with Tommy Cooper.

"Oh Yea, Oh Yea, Just Like That!" If you are up on British culture and references you will know that "Oh Yea!" is the traditional call of the Town Crier and that "Just like that" was the catch phrase of Tommy Cooper, a comedy magician who was also an ex police officer. I say magician loosely because the comedy derived from the fact that his magic was appalling and usually failed. He was one of the few comics who would be guaranteed to reduce my late father to tears of laughter. Just like that!

How did Les become the Dartmouth Town Crier? Les was the only person who applied for the Dartmouth crier job, so after a quick interview he was given the post. Les and his wife Liz appear at most big town events, with Les ringing his bell at the regatta, music festival, food festival, Candlelit Dartmouth and Remembrance Sunday. In Medieval times town criers were the chief means of communicating with the townspeople, since many were illiterate. They would shout about anything from dates of market days to the taxes going up. “I try and spread better news than that,” Les says with a smile. “I’m helping keep a traditional role alive. I love it. I meet people from around the world and, hopefully, make them happy.” (bythedart.co.uk)

Back to the serious part of the post. This was the minutes silence at 11.00am. Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France at 5:45 am, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. But, according to Thomas R. Gowenlock, an intelligence officer with the U.S. First Division, shelling from both sides continued for the rest of the day, only ending at nightfall. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days and had to be extended several times. A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year. (wikipedia)

A lone trumpet plays the Last Post. The salute.

The laying of the wreath at the town War Memorial.

It was a very short, very formal, sad and moving ceremony. It brought to mind the trip I made with my late mother around the battlefields where my grandfather, her father, was wounded in action. Had he not survived that injury, and he very nearly didn't, I wouldn't have been in Dartmouth today to witness this ceremony.

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