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Bells to peal for fallen of First World War

29 January 2016

richard doughty phototgraphy

Remembered: Robert Wood in the ringing chamber at Ripon Cathedral

Remembered: Robert Wood in the ringing chamber at Ripon Cathedral

TO HONOUR predecessors killed in the First World War, a group of church bell-ringers are ringing a full peal on the centenary of each of the servicemen’s deaths.

They will remember the 19 members of the Cleveland and North Yorkshire branch of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers by ringing the bells at the same towers in which the casualties had served.

The tribute was the idea of a ringer at Ripon Cathedral, Robert Wood. He said: “Each month the weekly paper The Ringing World has been publishing details of ringers whose deaths are recorded on the roll of honour kept by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, and I thought it would be a nice idea to mark the centenaries of ringers from this area.

“It’s quite a poignant moment when we go back to a tower where those people rang a hundred years before. Church bells can be hundreds of years old; so they could well be the same bells those young men once rang — they will certainly be the same towers.

“When ringers die, there are usually peals rung in their memory, but a lot of the ringers were away at the war; so it was unlikely there was any ringing for them.”

The first death was marked last May, when Sgt George Hill, who died on Whit Monday, 1915, in northern France, was remembered at St Mary’s, Whitby. The latest peal was rung on 3 January at St Mary’s, Thirsk, in memory of a Private in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, Thomas Edwin Raper, who was killed, aged 22, at Gallipoli, only days before the final evacuation.

The peals are rung by experienced ringers from across the region and beyond. Ringers for two of the peals have included the steward of the rolls of honour for the Central Council, Alan Regin, who lives in London. “He is so keen on what we are doing that wherever he is, he travels up to take part,” Mr Wood said. “If any ringer from the parish wants to join in, we will include them.

“A full peal can last up to three-and-a-half hours. It’s both physically demanding — you need stamina if you are ringing big bells — and mentally demanding, as you have to concentrate all that time. . . During the Thirsk peal, I started thinking about the men whose bells we were ringing, and I lost my concentration and made a mistake — but we were able to get it back.”

The last peal will be at St Cuthbert’s, Ormesby, on Teesside, on 28 October 2018, in memory of Private Frank Brown, of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who died, aged 20, just before the Armistice.

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