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Castle Bromwich Airman remembered at WWI centenary service

The church bells of St Mary & St Margaret's were rung in honour of 23-year-old US airman Balch, who had just completed his training at Castle Bromwich Airfield when his plane crashed.

The commemoration service for the First World War at St Mary & St Margaret's Church in Castle Bromwich
The commemoration service for the First World War at St Mary & St Margaret's Church in Castle Bromwich

In 1914, a small group of mourners gathered around the Castle Bromwich grave of a young lieutenant, Raymond Balch, killed in a plane crash.

One hundred years later, more than 150 people stood in the same place to hear his story as part of their commemoration of the start of the First World War.

The church bells of St Mary & St Margaret’s were rung in honour of 23-year-old US airman Balch, who had just completed his training at Castle Bromwich Airfield when his plane crashed.

The bells were then rung in reverse order, a traditional method to signify the outbreak of war.

Following a lone piper into the church, the congregation consisted of church-goers, the clergy and choir, the bell ringers, members of the parish council, military cadets, residents and a large group from the 237th Castle Bromwich Scout Group. Bill Dargue, the longest-serving member of the Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers, said it was important to remember the dark events that took place during the First World War.

The commemoration service for the First World War at St Mary & St Margaret's Church in Castle Bromwich
The commemoration service for the First World War at St Mary & St Margaret's Church in Castle Bromwich
 

“It was a very solemn commemoration,” he said. “It was quite touching really.

“We had quite a lot of youngsters there, I think it’s very important to mark these events which had an earth shattering impact.”

The commemoration service was held by Rector Gavin Douglas, who previously as served at Colonel in the Balkans War. It was lit by four candles to represent the four corners of the earth which all suffered the impact of the First World War.

Bells were again rung in reverse concluding with the tolling of the tenor bell 31 times to commemorate the 31 names of Castle Bromwich soldiers named on the Great War memorial in the church.

 

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