This Poppy Appeal, The Royal British Legion is leading the Nation in saying ‘Thank You’ to the First World War generation who served, sacrificed and changed our world.
In both terms of scale and its drawing upon modern industrialised resources, the First World War was like no other that had gone before it. Its impact upon states, societies, institutions and individuals meant no man, woman or child was left unaffected. It was a war that would shape the course of the twentieth century.
Up and down the country there are memorials to commemorative The Fallen. Here in High Wycombe we have 11 memorials alone, and some 8,705 people are listed on war memorials in the whole of Buckinghamshire. Earlier this year I was honoured to be included in the Remembrance Service organised by the Rotary Club to remember those who are buried in High Wycombe cemetery.
In the Great War, people from Wycombe were represented in all the Armed Services. But often loyalty to locality was marked by those who volunteered, and many men served in our Territorials – the Buckinghamshire Battalions of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Royal Bucks Hussars.
With my background as an officer in the RAF I wanted to remember particularly today Maurice Mealing, who was educated at Green Street School and then followed his father into the furniture industry as a French polisher. He enlisted in the Buckinghamshire Battalion immediate following the outbreak of the First World War and joined the British Expeditionary force in France in March 1915.
He was progressively promoted, and as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Shropshire Light Infantry, he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. In October 1918 he was a pilot in the famous 56 Squadron, and flew a Scout Experimental SE5a biplane, which was Britain’s most successful fighter plane of the First World War. He went missing on 24th March 1918 when pursuing two German aircraft over the Western Front and was never seen again. He was 24 years of age. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross in May 1918 and is recognised as a World War I flying ace, credited with 14 aerial victories.
The Poppy Appeal has local, national and international significance. On the 11th of November 1918 Mr Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, came out of Number 10 Downing Street to address a jubilant crowd. He said:
The people of this country and our allies, the Dominions and of India, have won a great victory for humanity. They have won this hour of gladness, and the whole country has done its duty.