We were in London for the Centenary of The Somme on June 30, 2016 and Cheryl and I attended a segment of the All-Night Vigil at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended about an hour before we arrived and we saw the wreath Queen Elizabeth II presented at the Grave of the Unknown. We watched readings of “The story of the Battle of the Somme in their own words…” and a changing of the guard every 15 minutes for the hour or so that we observed the proceedings before lighting our candle to the memory of great uncle Herbert Mockford who was killed in combat on September 16, 1916 at The Somme.
We visited Imperial War Museum where “The Night Before The Somme” program included music and poetry and performance of “Dr. Blighty” in the Atium while we drank “Gunfire Tea” (a rum tea recipe that soldiers drank at the front during WWI).
I met author Taylor Downing for the book signing of his “Breakdown: The Crisis of Shell Shock on The Somme” and kept it for my in-flight reading on our journey home. The Finale in the Atrium was BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Stephanie Childress performing on the “Western Front Violin” made from trees that grew along the Somme Battlefield.
On July 1 we attended the performance of the Welsh National Opera presentation of “In Parenthesis” at Royal Opera House. This opera was commissioned as part of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and is based on the 1937 epic poem about WWI by David Jones, grandfather’s second cousin. After the opera we went out on the town with my second cousin Kitty Ellard whom we spent a couple of days with in London seeing some lesser known sites and we joined David Jones’s grand niece Sarah Williams (my 4th cousin) and her husband Ian whom I met in 2015 during the Faversham Nautical Festival at their home in Faversham, Kent.
As an executor of the Jones estate Sarah has been very involved with centenary activities involving the use of David Jones material in the Opera program and the exhibits of his paintings at galleries such as Palant House Gallery’s exhibit “David Jones: Vision and Memory.” in 2015. Art historian and BBC Producer, Kenneth Clark, believed that David Jones was the greatest British watercolourist of the 20th century and Author Mark Sheerin said, “Pallant has revived a painter with wit, verve, technique, and vision. David Jones has everything, except perhaps fame.” There has been a rediscovery of David Jones during the centenary of WWI and we found his name in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey as one of the Great War Poets.