Ordinary people to express gratitude at WW1 centenary seafront procession

The People's March group on the Esplanade. Ref shs 41 18TI 2340. Picture: Terry Ife

The People's March group on the Esplanade. Ref shs 41 18TI 2340. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth is expected to come to a standstill as part of a people’s march to mark 100 years since the end of World War One.

Organisers are trying to secure a road closure for the event on November 9, which will see the crowd march from the high street to the seafront before 11am.

Their vision is to have the procession led by Sidmouth’s next generation, with youngsters from the area’s primary school and Sidmouth College being invited to take part. The rest of the community will then be invited to join behind and are encouraged to bring wreaths, posies or messages to lay by the railings.

Edward Willis-Fleming, of Sidmouth Design, said he felt the town needed to do something to mark the 100th anniversary.

He said: “It’s about ordinary people expressing their gratitude for the sacrifices made.

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“I’d like to think people will shut their shops for the moment and come out wearing their aprons or whatever you happen to be wearing for work and join behind the procession, carrying a wreath or a memento to lay at the seafront.

“We will face France which is where so much of the horrors took place. We will have a two-minute silence and there will be the Last Post. Then we will disperse, hopefully leaving behind the wreaths with a plan for people to see until we clear them away. We want to include the whole of the Sid Valley. It’s the simplest thanks, we follow the next generation and thank all the generations of people who we should be eternally grateful for their sacrifices not just at that time but in other wars. We cannot celebrate it but we need a moment to observe it.”

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He added if a road closure could not be obtained, the march could walk to the seafront and congregate for the service.

Sidmouth Town Council and the town’s chamber of commerce have offered their support.

Councillor Ian McKenzie-Edwards, chairman of the council, said: “They were just ordinary people who put on uniforms and went to fight in that Great War. They were just ordinary men and women, they had futures and for a lot of them it stopped on the battlefields of Northern France.”

Dave O’Connor, chairman of the Sidmouth branch of the legion, said if the road closure can be secure the event will be a ‘good thing’ for the town in the run up to Remembrance Sunday.

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