Nation's bells to ring out together to mark Armistice Centenary

    Diocese of Bristol
    19 October 2018

    On 11 November 2018, 100 years since Armistice, bells will ring out in unison from churches and cathedrals in villages, towns and cities across the country. Big Ben will also strike at 11am to mark the centenary.

    As part of the Armistice centenary events, people are being encouraged to ring bells as they did a 100 years ago, having been restricted throughout the war, when news of the Armistice spread across the land. Bells of all kinds can take part, from places of worship to town halls, ships’ sirens and more.
    You can list your bell-ringing event or find events near to you here.

    Bell ringers in the First World War

    Many bell ringers joined the war effort, and many lost their lives. Just after the war, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers wrote to all bell towers to compile the Roll of Honour. At the time 1,100 men were reported as lost.

    During the First World War Centenary the Central Council of Bell Ringers has been reviewing this list and has discovered a further 400 bell ringers who died in service. Two bell towers - Edington in Wiltshire and Bamburgh in Northumberland - lost 6 ringers each during the war. In total 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives.

    Programme for Armistice Day 2018

    On 11 November 2018, the day will begin at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission St Symphorien Cemetery near Mons, Belgium where the war began in 1914, where the war’s first and last casualties lie and where the government began the commemorations in 2014. It offers a fitting place to reflect on the cost of the war.

    The 14-18 Now cultural programme will return for a compelling final season, culminating on 11 November 2018 in a UK-wide event to draw the nation together in a shared moment of remembrance. The full programme will be announced in January.

    In the evening, the national commemorations will end with a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The service will reflect on the Centenary, recognise the impact of the war after the Armistice, and give thanks to all those who were affected over the course of the conflict.

    The Edington Six

    After the First World war the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers wrote to every tower to ask for the names of the fallen for their Great War Memorial book. The beautifully produced volume contains 1,100 names inscribed with their bell towers.

    A letter was sent to Edington Priory Church but no reply appears to have been received and so none of Edington’s ringers were listed in that first book.

    Tucked between the chalk downs and close to Westbury’s famous White Horse, the sleepy Wiltshire town of Edington (once known as Tinhead) is dwarfed by the massive 14th century church, Edington Priory Church which, in 1914, had 6 bells.

    The Edington ringers were at the heart of the working community. While one was a carer in a local hospital, others were farmers and the wheelwright. Four of the 6 played in the local football team. Along with tens of the village men, 6 ringers went to war.

    A hundred years later Alan Regin, one of the world’s leading Ringers and Steward of the Rolls of Honour, Central Council of Church Bell Ringers started to look into the names collected immediately following the war. He soon discovered that dozens were missing. Research to date has revealed 300 additional names, enough to warrant the creation of a second volume of the Great War Memorial book.

    Perhaps no one reply came from Edington Priory because there was no one to write back. By the end of the war The Edington Six had died. Only one other Bell Tower in Britain - in Bamburgh Northumberland - lost as many ringers. The impact on the village would have been devastating.

    Five are buried along the Western Front in Cambrai, Abbeville, Hermies Hill, Arras and Heverlee, but one, Private Leonard Drewett, the hospital worker, served in the Labour Corps and suffered increasingly with epilepsy. He died during hospital treatment in Colchester, and was brought home to Edington for burial. He is buried with a Commonwealth War Grave headstone near family graves in the peaceful Wiltshire churchyard.