DRESSED in their finery, medals buffed and umbrellas at the ready, former soldiers whispered a prayer to remember their comrades.
As the buglers sounded the flag was lowered and tributes were paid to over 10,000 fallen Hampshire soldiers with a moment’s silence.
Past and present soldiers gathered at Serle’s House in Winchester to pay their respects at a specialist remembrance service on the eve of the centenary of the start of World War One.
Event organiser Lieutenant Colonel Colin Bulleid, secretary to the Royal Hampshire Regiment Trustees, said the event had been timed with other remembrance services being held across the county and in line with the work recently completed at the museum.
“We have completely reorganised the regiment museum and we were looking for an event to highlight this and the start of the First World War,” he said. “Today is about commemorating the soldiers of the regiment who fought and died for us, not only in the First World War, but also during World War Two and conflicts beyond.
“We have invited anybody who has served in the regiment and all the mayors for all of these areas, including Eastleigh and Southampton.
“If you come from a Hampshire family of more than two generations you have a good chance they have fought with us.”
Wreaths were laid aside the 10,259 poppy-headed wooden crosses which had been carefully placed in the ground earlier in the week by six cadets who volunteered from Eastleigh platoons. Among them was Lance Corporal Sophie Groves, 16, who is with the 11th platoon.
“It’s a really important event and it’s good to be part of it,” she said. “I’ve been in cadets most of my life and to see all this is amazing.”
Also paying tribute was honoured guest Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC, who serves with the Princess of Wales regiment. He was awarded for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes in 2004 during the war in Iraq during which he sustained serious head injuries.
He said: “Today I’m here to remember the great men who laid down their lives to give us the platform we’re standing on today,” he said. “It’s an honour to be in their presence.”
One of the more senior veterans was Reginald Argyle, 91, was born on St Thomas Street in Winchester in 1923 and fought with the 2nd Battalion Hampshire and later with the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire. He laid a cross for his best friend, Leonard Burgess, who threw himself over Mr Argyle during a mortar attack in Italy.
He said: “This is the first time this has happened here and I put three crosses there: one for each of my granddads killed in 1917 and one for my best pal, who I went to school with, who was killed in 1943.”
He was accompanied by his son, 62-year-old Allan; the honorary secretary for the London branch and a standard-bearer.
Sid Whistle, 75, who served with the 1st Battalion Hampshire during 1957-1960, said: “I feel very privileged and very proud to be able to be here.”