Priest writes Remembrance Hymn for people with ‘life-altering battle scars’

WHEN writing a hymn for Remembrance Day — a task she set about “with fear and trembling” — the Revd Ally Barrett’s thoughts turned to a wedding that she had conducted for a groom who had severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his experience in combat. “I realised that this really significant and widespread issue wasn’t reflected proportionally in the liturgy,” she said this month. “I wanted to make sure there was at least a verse of a hymn for people whose battle scars were not visible but were life-altering.”


The result of her efforts, “Hope for the world’s despair”, won first prize in Jubilate’s competition, Hymns of Peace, and, with those suffering mental scars in mind, contains the line: “Ease for the troubled mind In endless conflict caught”. The hymn will be heard at Remembrance Day services in St Paul’s Cathedral and York Minister in November. It has been recorded by Jonathan Veira, and released as a single, featuring members of the All Souls’ Orchestra, conducted by Noël Tredinnick. It is set to the tune of “Love Unknown”. “A good tune can buy you a lot of good will,” Mrs Barrett said. “It’s not just a vehicle for words: it communicates incredibly powerfully on a number of levels.”


She described “Love Unknown” as “an absolutely fabulous piece of music”, and believes that, because it is often used during Holy Week, “something of that theology of sacrifice and friendship with Christ and the love of God . . . clings to the tune and forms a background to the new words.” The competition, which was launched in January with the support of Hymns Ancient & Modern, invited hymn-writers, published or unpublished, to write a “congregationally singable song with lyrical substance, a metrical scheme, and a clear harmonic structure”. It had to be “Christian in content, on a theme of peace, and appropriate for Remembrance services”.


Among the judges was the Precentor of York Minster, Canon Peter Moger, formerly the national worship development officer for the Church of England, and chair of the Liturgical Commission. Mrs Barrett, now a tutor at Westcott House, with hymns among her many published works, served for 11 years as a parish priest in an area with strong ties to the RAF. She was conscious of the challenges that Remembrance Day brings: “There is a massive responsibility that goes with saying anything, whether writing a prayer or preaching a sermon or choosing hymns.” There may be “a whole range of emotions going on”, and many different stakeholders in the congregation, she said. “Sometimes, people’s needs contradict each other. I’ve been aware that right words in the right order [for this] really, really matter — more than on other days of the year.”


She wrote a first draft of her hymn in two hours, “and then tinkered”. Unable to share her work with others — the competition demanded secrecy — she found the writing a “slightly weird and lonely process”, and felt “reassured” by the presence of a judging panel, who later provided a degree of “finessing”. Her best lines, she said, were “ones I have borrowed from elsewhere”. “If there is any skill in what I have done, it is connecting people with those resonances, whether scriptural or in other hymns.” She pointed to the reference to Philippians in “peace beyond all thought” in the penultimate verse. On Remembrance Sunday, she will not be at St Paul’s, or York Minster. “The whole point is that it is not about me, but about those whom the hymn is for. I will sink into the shadows, probably, and hide.”


Notes from the Editor


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Join Us

At St. James’s Branch we would be delighted if you are interested in volunteering, whether you’re a member or not.

Non-Members can:-

St James’s Branch Members can:-

  • Take part in all of the above.

In addition, join the St James’s Branch Management Committee, where you will have the opportunity to:-

  • Shape the future of The Royal British Legion’s largest branch (circa 20k members) and influence the decision makers leading the UK’s largest Armed Forces Charity.
  • Enhance your CV; employers appreciate the dedication and drive it takes to be a volunteer.                                                                            
  • Develop your interpersonal skills; debating, resolution and listening to all arguments/opinions have a major impact on your ability to understand new or different concepts.
  • Be heard; new successes, initiatives and perspectives are the lifeblood of a successful team, your ideas will help.
  • Learn; from veterans, business owners and charity workers, an appreciation of learning from history, taking the best ideas forward and finding new opportunities.
  • Enjoy new friendships; our current team are a diverse bunch of characters, who, whilst taking their roles very seriously, never, take themselves too seriously!

We look forward to hearing from you, we particularly encourage applications from those of you who were born after 1987 (though not exclusively!) 

Do contact us now to find out more about supporting the British Legion.

Read more about fundraising for the British Legion on the National website – click here.


Drink up and donate

Greene King launches new Flanders Fields beer 

Greene King is set to brew a special edition beer in partnership with The Royal British Legion to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The beer, called Flanders Fields, has been developed by Greene King brewer Ross O’Hara with the help of former servicemen and women, using popular flavours from wartime.


Matt Starbuck, Greene King’s managing director, said: “Like so many other long-standing businesses, Greene King and its employees were impacted hugely by World War One. “The Royal British Legion provides invaluable support to servicemen and women today and we are proud to be able to support with this limited edition beer.” The fruity ale will be on sale from October, with 20 pence from each pint donated to the Royal British Legion’s Thank You campaign, which aims to thank those who served or lost their lives in the war.

Chance for Thanks

Claire Rowcliffe, director of fund-raising at the Royal British Legion, said: “Thanks to Greene King’s generosity, this special edition beer will raise much needed funds for today’s Armed Forces community, ensuring their service is never forgotten. “The end of the centenary is the chance for us all to thank not only the British Armed Forces who fought and gave their lives, but the thousands who fought alongside them from countries from across today’s Commonwealth, and the countless men, women and children who played their part on the home front.”

Greene King, which lost 21 employees during the war, will also be partnering with The Royal British Legion to share stories from its archives, including employees’ memories and board minutes.


Galanos House Rides Out

100 years ago, 11-11-1918, the First World War ended, and a new world began. The example and experience of those who lived through it shaped the world we live in today. In 2018 The Royal British Legion is leading the nation in saying Thank You to all who served, sacrificed and changed our world. The Royal British Legion Care Home, Galanos House, community; including veterans, residents, staff, relatives and supporters have come up with a unique way to say “Thank You”.


At the end of October, Friday 26th – Sunday 28th, they will be aiming to complete a distance of 270 miles; equivalent to riding from Southam to the Armistice Glade, Compeigne, France, where the Armistice was signed nearly 100 years ago. Using state-of-the art static recumbent bikes, (Donated by RBL St James’s Branch), Galanos House will be a hive of pedal power to cover the distance.

“The Galanos House Armistice Ride” will raise funds for the care home’s Amenities Fund, which provides the residents with opportunities (trips, entertainment, personal care support) to further enhance their lives at this multi-award winning RBL Care Home. For further details on how you can support/sponsor or take part in this exciting event, please email or contact Galanos House directly on 01926 812185  Event Information page


Great Pilgrimage 90 Update

St James’ Branch GP90 Report

The Great Pilgrimage 90 (GP90) took place from Monday 5th August to Thursday 8th August 2018 and culminated in the parade of over 1100 RBL standards and the same number of wreath bearers to the Menin Gate at Ypres.


The St James branch sent two representatives, John Robson Standard Bearer and Treasurer and Tod O’Brien Branch Secretary to the event. The trip was organised in conjunction with Leger Holidays and the members received excellent communications and administration from the RBL and Leger prior to the departure.


The journey took the form of coach travel throughout via Dover to Calais and during the two days prior to the parade members were treated to two days of battlefield and cemetery visits.

Day 1.


We visited Thiepval cemetery, Delville Wood the scene of a desperate South African engagement and the memorial to the fallen and Vimy Ridge memorial. These were deeply emotional visits. Not until one sees the rows and rows of tombstones and names of the fallen etched into the walls in their thousands can one truly appreciate the scale and sense of the loss. Wall after wall of memorials, to the long forgotten regiments of the line. Every name was a person. Every person had a family and friends. The immense destruction of human life is truly unforgiveable. Then onto Arras and the Vimy Ridge memorial. Truly humbling.

Day 2.


We visited the Passchandaele museum followed by Tyne Cot cemetery. After the first day I thought we had been shocked. Tyne Cot numbed me into disbelief. 12 thousand graves and 35 thousand names in the memorial walls for those who had no last resting place. This was beyond the use of words to describe the enormity of what had happened in these rolling pastures and sunlit woodlands. So peaceful now and yet less than three or four generations ago had seen such carnage and destruction as never seen before. Flanders field visitor centre run by young Canadian interns. Ever smiling, ever helpful to assist in understanding the loss and sadness. For me one poignant moment reading the famous poem of Canadian John Macrae, Surgeon in the field.

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
We may or may not concur with the sentiments of his last verse but can certainly understand it as soldiers, airmen and sailors.
At Tyne Cot we also met several young interns from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. (CWC) Young people from the U.K. who volunteer to assist visitors to find relatives, research the cemetery and are always helpful and smiling. To any young person I would certainly recommend this as an internship prior to university or embarking into the workplace. A meaningful and humbling experience for anyone. I encouraged them to join the RBL. I hope they do.
Lastly Hill 60. The scene of the tunnelling by the allied tunnellers, who worked tirelessly to overcome the enemy emplacements, which were so hard to break down through conventional attacks and who inevitably saved lots of allied lives.

Day 3.


This was the culmination of our pilgrimage, where over 1100 standards of the Royal British Legion Branches and the same number of wreath bearers paraded in Ypres town centre to the Menin Gate. Famous for it’s continuing homage daily to the fallen. It was a proud moment to see all the blue and gold standards flying in the brilliant sunshine through the narrow cobbled streets of Ypres and the red poppies shining brightly on the wreaths as we made our way to the Menin Gate. It didn’t feel sad or emotional, but everyone was full of pride at being part of such a commemoration and was welcomed with open arms by the local people.
Perhaps though there are some lessons for us as an organisation that holds the covenant for all Armed Forces beneficiaries so dear to our hearts. There was much discussion in our group at our hotel as to what had been achieved for the Royal British Legion. There must have been at least a £1000,000 spent on this project. There were no members of the Royal family at the service. The commemoration at Amiens on the same day seemed to overshadow the Ypres event. Hence there was no national media coverage, although there were lots on social media. It felt to me as though we had been a little cheated of recognition by the mainstream media and the Patrons of our charity.
Did we attract any new younger members? Surely a part of the strategy of such a huge cost of such an event will have been to bring us to the attention and piqued the interest of a new tranche of younger members. I fear without the necessary patronage and media coverage this will be very unlikely. We are likely, as the generations who fought a hundred years ago to secure our freedom, to become an anomaly and associated with a forgotten period as it fades into the distance and memory of the public consciousness.
As the Royal British Legion we need to do more to raise our profile and become much more relevant to today’s more recent conflicts and the real trials and tribulations of the thousands who have fought and are still fighting for our peace and security. If there is a torch to be passed, as John Macrae the famous poet intimated, it is the one that the Royal British Legion now needs to grasp firmly and make relevant to all our communities and refresh our importance to the country and not just at Remembrance.
Tod O’Brien. Secretary. St James’ Branch

Royal British Legion on front line at job-centre

Figures might well put Gloucestershire in an area with the highest employment rate in the county, but it has not stopped job centres innovating in the battle to help still more back into work.


Jobcentre Plus (JCP) in the city has recognised a need to do more to help former members of the nation’s armed forces, and who better to assist than an organisation set up to do just that. “The Royal British Legion now has a desk and from there they can help ex-armed forces people with support and training and finding work,” said Di Haines, senior partnership manager for Gloucestershire and Somerset branch of the Department for Work and Pensions.

“In turn they are also helping to training our own counter staff and broaden their knowledge so they can be of more help to former members of the armed forces too.” “They are proving a great success in meeting the welfare needs of local veterans and serving personnel of the armed forces community.


“The numbers of footfall are increasing week on week and word of mouth of the Royal British Legion presence in Gloucester Jobcentre is having an effect in terms of the numbers of beneficiaries that are dropping into the outreach. “Through these sessions the Royal British Legion has assisted numerous beneficiaries, helping them with welfare needs ranging from very simple assistance to helping those who have multiple and complex needs.

“The benefit of being in the JCP for Royal British Legion beneficiaries is that they can engage with them in a safe and confidential environment and they work closely with the Jobcentre Plus team, especially with Kevin Sherwood, the Jobcentre’s Armed Forces specialist to deliver a joined-up approach in assisting people.”


Other innovations include outreach work at the Gloucester Mission at the George Whitefield Centre on Great Western Road. Staff from Jobcentre Plus attend every Tuesday afternoon from 2.30pm to 4.30pm to work with what is described as a “hard to reach group” in what is regarded as a “neutral venue”. Individuals have been helped to open Universal Credit accounts when their employment support allowances have ended and assisted others with personal independence claims and help moving them towards the world of work.

In Cheltenham on Tuesdays, between 2pm and 4pm, Jobcentre staff run sessions for customers with a health condition or disability, again to offer support with Universal Credit claims, advice from work coaches and providing access to computers and support with applications. In Gloucestershire figures show 331,800 economically active people with 322,300 of them in employment. Some 269,100 of them are employed and 51,800 of them self-employed. Which leaves 9,600 unemployed – 2.9 per cent of the population. A Royal British Legion Case Officer for Gloucestershire provides outreach support at a drop-in session at Gloucester Jobcentre, Spa Road, Gloucester GL1 1XL every Wednesday from 10am to 4pm. Any ex-armed forces personnel or partners are welcome to attend the drop-in sessions.


UPDATE-Membership Renewals: Payment by Cheque

Please note that for members paying by cheque they must NOW include the following information on the back of the cheque:

  • First Initial
  • Surname
  • Postcode 
  • Membership Number

We are receiving a lot of cheques with nothing written on them and as such we have to shred them as we cannot trace them back to their owners. We have also previously advised members to put their membership number on the back of the cheque. This is no longer enough information to ensure the cheques are processed correctly and without delays.


Thank you for your cooperation.


Membership Services Team


Armed Forces Pocket Guide to Mental Health

The guide, jointly launched by Samaritans and the Ministry of Defence, gives advice on how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties, suggests ways of offering support and gives information on where help can be found.

Support Available

All military personnel and reserves, some 200,000 people, will have access to either a hard copy or digital version of the booklet. The guide builds on the range of support already available to service personnel who are struggling with their mental health, including access to specialist mental health medical care, training and education on good mental fitness and the Combat Stress 24-hour Mental Health Helpline.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

Mental health issues can affect anyone and I want to ensure no one in our military suffers in silence. It is vital that service personnel know where to turn to in times of crisis, and this guide will raise awareness of the support available.

By helping our people to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling, we give them the best chance of a full recovery.

Specifically designed to promote peer support amongst those serving, the guide champions “looking after your mates”, and covers:

  • Identifying someone struggling to cope with mental health issues
  • Understanding the complexity of suicide
  • Knowing when to intervene, support and report
  • Where to get further support, including the Samaritans service, whose volunteers are available any time, via phone and email or in person at the charity’s 201 branches, and the recently launched Combat Stress 24/7 Military Mental Health Helpline

Joint Initiative

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

While military mental health continues to be slightly better than the general population, we’re committed to ensuring that those who need help are able to get the support they need.

This guide, alongside our extra investment in mental health care and the 24-hour Mental Health Helpline, will be invaluable in helping our people to help each other.

Samaritans and the MOD have announced several joint initiatives to offer training and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families who are struggling with mental health issues. The Samaritans programme has been funded by £3.5m from LIBOR, and the guide is the latest part of this programme. A separate booklet is set to be launched for veterans, and the wider military community. The next stage of the project will include the launch of other peer support tools, specially designed training courses for military personnel and a confidential webchat service. Training for Samaritans volunteers on how address mental health in a military environment will also be introduced.

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland, said:

Samaritans is committed to bringing the expertise we have gained in training people to provide peer support to the military, in order to prevent suicides. This is the first step in a journey to provide a variety of support for serving personnel, veterans, reservists and their families.

The booklet will also help personnel spot signs that colleagues may be having suicidal thoughts and provides information on how such a situation should be approached, and where support is available.

Mental Fitness

The number of military personnel who take their lives continues to be below rates for the general population, with the military rate of suicide being 8 per 100,000, in 2017, compared to 18 per 100,000 in the general population in 2016. The Ministry of Defence is now spending £220 million over the next decade to improve mental health services for serving personnel. In February of this year, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced the establishment of a 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline for serving personnel and their families, funded by the MOD and run by the charity Combat Stress. The MOD’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy is designed to encourage all members of the armed forces to recognise the importance of mental fitness and encourages individuals to seek support if they are struggling with their mental health.


Time to take a fresh look at remembrance?

There’s nothing like a military funeral to bring home the sheer pathos of a young life cut short, of a family’s loss; of a company of servicemen and women bereaved and troubled by the action in which they have been involved. Perhaps I have had to oversee one too many of these. The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have left plenty of wounds in communities across Britain; mine is no exception. That is why I think that as a church and nation we need to look with fresh eyes at the way we do remembrance.

Point a Path

Every November my own cathedral, in common with every other church and community, joins in Remembrance-tide commemorations with all the traditional elements: flags, parade, band, bugles, Last Post, poppies, silence and the pledge to remember. The rituals and monuments, shrines and cenotaphs were all designed to give a focus to public and private grief, to transmute the rawness of loss into hope. I’m not so sure it’s enough. Is it sufficiently honest to the experience of conflict? Does it point a path to peace?

Imagine Peace

The history of the First World War does not recede as time recedes. Traditions survive when they are thought through and developed, not when they lapse into routine or become a cliché. What we have tried to develop here at Lichfield during this centenary year of the Armistice may be a starter for a wider national conversation about remembrance. This summer we held an interactive exhibition, Imagine Peace. We surrounded the cathedral with 1,918 saplings and young trees that will go on to form a permanent woodland peace garden in the city when planted in the autumn.

Freedom and liberty

We invited people to reflect on peace as they walked through this labyrinth. Inside the cathedral, a sound and light installation showed 16 million leaves falling to earth in commemoration of every life lost, while a kaleidoscope of colour projections asked people to “imagine peace” for themselves this Armistice year; with references to great biblical teaching on peace alongside messages and dreams of peace from contemporary voices. People were invited to craft a symbolic dove of peace, to write their reflections, to name their concerns, to be thankful for freedom and liberty. And they came. Over the 12 days of the exhibition, almost 12,000 visitors came to “imagine peace” for themselves.


Violence and conflict stain our history, war being the last resort in the overthrow of evil and threat. But what about the steps necessary to resolve difference before conflict becomes inevitable, and the healing of minds and nations after war has been waged? What about reconciliation? Christian theology analyses human ingenuity in evil and offers one revealed story to a path out of our wraths and sorrows — the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.


As people of faith, the church has the task of putting an alternative vision of creation flourishing. Our medieval ancestors in England delighted in portraying the Cross in flower. The Cross was the tree, not of defeat, but of life; evil had been defeated, sin remedied. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, ends with the tree of life, Christ’s Cross in glory, straddling a wide river, its fruit feeding the world “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation xx:2).

Different Phase

Taking that vision of flourishing, healing and resurrection forward might be the most significant addition we make to remembrance. It’s become a commonplace piece of contemporary apocalyptic to say that the next world-shattering conflict will be about water, or the land by which we feed ourselves, or the purity of the air we breathe, or the stability of our climate. Helping people to think about human responsibility and vulnerability is a vital way of honouring the Armistice of 1918 by curing the causes of conflict. Maybe the symbolism of resurrection and rebirth, found in the shape of the tree of life, might presage the regreening of our own land, and push us into a different phase of remembering and peacemaking?

The Very Rev Adrian Dorber is Dean of Lichfield         Full Story at The Times


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