On Sunday, November 11th for the first time in many years the baffles in the bell chamber that are normally closed to limit the sound of Leatherhead’s bells were opened on all four sides of the tower so that the ringing of the bells would carry far and wide and accompany people walking to the War Memorial on this special Armistice Centenary Remembrance Sunday.
Between 9.45 and 10.30 am precisely the bells were rung half-muffled to produce the alternating loud and soft, echoing tones that reflect the melancholy, serious nature of the occasion. The hardest challenge came at 10.50 am precisely, when three teams of ringers lined up in turn to ring “Whole Pull and Stand”. In practice sessions we had rarely managed it to our satisfaction, so there was some anxiety. Yet on the day itself there was no hesitation. The ringing culminated in Rex, our Vice Captain, tolling the huge tenor bell, stopping at 11 am exactly for the two minute silence which we observed in the belfry along with the rest of the nation.
At 12.30 pm exactly ringing commenced again, this time with the muffles removed, as our team of Grandsire Triples ringers joined churches and cathedrals throughout the land Ringing for Peace: Armistice 100.
Two of the people ringing this Remembrance Sunday were doing so for the first time. When the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and the UK Government ambitiously called for recruits to symbolically represent the 1400 bell ringers who died during WWI, they scarce anticipated that 2792 people would step forward nationwide. Among them were Stefan, who joined us last November, and Alastair who recently commented, “Hard to believe that I had never rung a church bell on the 10th of September and nearly two months later I have managed to start ringing bells in rounds.” Known as our Ringing Remembers recruits, both played a full part in the ringing on the morning and again during the evening of November 11th, each proudly wearing the badges they were awarded for their endeavours.
For all of us, that evening was a very moving experience as we joined towers around the world simultaneously ringing to mark the international Battle’s Over commemorations. At 6.55 pm exactly, having mounted to the top of the church tower, our bugler, Cliff Lennon, played the Last Post, followed by the Rouse, intently listened to by the bell ringers in the ringing chamber below before we again commenced ringing at 7.05 pm precisely.
Several people have kindly commented that the ringing formed a touching backdrop to the service and their day and that they appreciated and enjoyed listening to the bells.