Winchester mayor's 1919 pledge honoured 95 years on

Hampshire Chronicle: The flag raising ceremony took part outside the Great Hall The flag raising ceremony took part outside the Great Hall

IT was the final leg of a two-year project, and a celebration of the county’s service men and women.

To mark the start of the annual Armed Forces Week there was a flag raising ceremony outside the Great Hall in Winchester and the unveiling of a memorial to those that passed through Morn Hill camps during the First World War.

On Monday, June 23, proceedings began with a selection of military music at the Buttercross, High Street, by The Band & Bugles of the Rifles.

They then marched to St Maurice’s Covert where they were met by a contingent of service personnel drawn from the Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force.

Together they proceeded up the High Street to the Great Hall for the ceremony and unveiling of the ‘To Honour a Promise’ memorial, which marks the centenary since the outbreak of WWI in 1914.

It sits at the base of the steps in the courtyard by the Great Hall, and throughout the ceremony was covered in a cloth made by textiles students from Peter Symonds College.

Designed by Simon Smith, the ‘To Honour a Promise’ project has been two years in the making, and last month saw Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire Dame Mary Fagan officially unveil information boards at Morn Hill.

David Harrison, who has been at the project’s forefront, said he felt elated to see the final piece of the puzzle come together.

“It’s great! I feel on top of the world and couldn’t be better,” he said.

“The memorial is different, but we think it’s fitting and evocative.”

In his speech he thanked all those involved, including Winchester City and Hampshire County Councils.

Dame Mary Fagan also addressed the hundreds of onlookers. She said: “Today we remember the commitment of all those who serve in the regular forces and their families. Many of them are, and will, serve abroad and may often be in personal danger.

“Hampshire is the home of all three services. Their families live here, their children go to our schools, they are a part of our community in every way.”

His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester was presented with the Armed Forces Flag, which was raised by a Hampshire Cadet.

He then unveiled the bench-like memorial, and the national anthem was played by The Band & Bugles of the Rifles.

Children from St Bede C of E Primary School lined the walkway leading to the Great Hall, and waved union jack flags during the song.

The permanent memorial represents the fulfilment of a promise made almost 100 years ago to honour the American troops who passed through Winchester’s Morn Hill Camp between 1914 and 1919.

Mr Harrison said it remembers all troops, not just American allies.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Roy Perry, said: “There are 30,000 military personnel based in Hampshire, the largest contingent in the country, and we are immensely proud of our strong connection with the armed forces.

“This year’s ceremony holds special significance as we celebrate the centenary of the First World War, as well as commemorating earlier this month the 70th anniversary of D-Day. At such a time, it’s only fitting that we share our gratitude for the contributions and sacrifices of the armed forces community, and all they do to protect and serve this country.”

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