Up, and to Royal Wootton Bassett.
Or, as it is known to residents, simply 'Bassett'.
I arrived after the ceremony of Remembrance at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of this new century. Normal life had resumed, apart from this one lady who continued to sell Poppies for the Royal British Legion in support of those who fall or stumble in our wars.
Our state has so long requested and often required martial service of its men and its women in its name. Whether the cause was just or sometimes not; whether honourable or sometimes not, the ultimate sacrifice has been demanded of that legion of those drafted, or who volunteered, to serve. And they have responded with courage and honour.
If we can be grateful for anything, it is that far fewer are required to pay that price these days than in the last or earlier centuries. And those who have died serving their country have been 'repatriated', rather than laid to rest below some foreign field, providing some comfort to their loved ones.
Thanks for liberty
Those oft compelled to lose life
freedom and future
The Legion lady told me she had attended all but five 'repatriations'.
The old cyclist who had spoken to her a while had missed only two.
It seemed as if the whole of Bassett turned out each time the cortège of a fallen soldier passed through the town from their landing at RAF Lyneham to the motorway. Through their silent presence they supported the grieving relatives who gathered to witness the return of a son or daughter. The townsfolk of Royal Wootton Bassett never expected to be thanked, but richly deserve the bestowal of the Royal Charter on their town in recognition.
That Royal Charter, along with other awards, is on display in the town's library until tomorrow.
- Nikon D5000