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The Poppy Train – and remembering a fallen soldier in Frome

On Friday 10th November, Frome Mayor Philip Campagna and a group of Frome residents handed a wreath to the guard of the ‘poppy train’, passing through Frome on its way to the Paddington Memorial, ahead of the marking of Remembrance Sunday across the UK. Despite overcast conditions, the Frome ceremony was attended by more than 1,000 people. Organiser and Frome Royal British Legion coordinator Jane Norris said: 

“One may think there is nothing to remember, but that is never the case. From personal reasons for attending, to the history that was acknowledged at the beginning of the service. 2023 marks 70 years since the end of hostilities in Korea; 80 years since the invasion of Sicily, and the loss of HM submarine Thunderbolt adopted by Frome. It marks 20 years since the beginning of the second Gulf War in 2003; and 160 years since the founding of the ICRC & IFRC (International Committee of the Red Cross, and parallel Red Crescent Movement). There is never a time when we should not remember, and pay tribute to the fallen and injured. Generations change, but the need to remember never diminishes, and prayers and private thoughts were expressed for ALL areas of the world and people in conflict, says Jane.  We must never forget, indeed, we must do all we can to promote peace.”  

Frome Mayor Philip Campagna said “It was an honour to be part of the poppy train ceremony on Friday, and to witness the proper observance of the service of Cpl Robert William Smith on the memorial plaque. It was important and poignant to be able to do it in the presence of Cpl Smith’s children. Many thanks to the Royal British Legion and all involved in another wonderful Remembrance Sunday for Frome.” 

Time heals they say, but for one family, a special dedication may have brought comfort and conclusion.  Cpl Robert William Smith of the Royal Corps of Signals was not included on the original memorial plaque in the Frome Memorial Theatre, despite having a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, and being commemorated where he is buried at Holy Trinity Church, Frome.  After 77 years and after a private donation, the plaque has been re-founded, with his name added.  Rev Colin Alsbury, leading his last Remembrance Day ceremony before retirement, led prayers of dedication before Cpl Smith’s children, now in their 70s and 80s, Diane Perrett, Pat Hayward and Roger Smith; laid a wreath watched over by their family, which included four generations.” 

Marking the 40th anniversary of Frome’s twinning with Murrhardt in Germany, it was a particularly poignant moment when the guests laid a wreath, and then both the Smith family and German councillors posed for photos together.  

The Town Crier, Mike Bishop, gave gravitas to the service by ringing attention to the ceremony, and so completing his last duty before retirement. 

Jane Norris, Remembrance coordinator for the Frome Branch RBL, wishes to record her thanks to the Mayor Cllr Philip Campagna, and the Frome Town Council for their lead in this Civic event.  She also thanks Parade Marshall Barry Eggleton of the Writhlington CCF; and the Frome Platoon, The Silver Bugles, Somerset ACF and Cadet Madelyn Nicholls who played the Last Post and Reveille, and to the Frome Town Band for playing during the service.   

16 November 2023
Last Updated
22 November 2023
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