At 11am on Sunday 11 November 2018 I stood by the Lichfield War Memorial in the Garden of Remembrance, on a cold, but bright and sunny autumnal morning.
I had, as usual, been taking photographs, from the time the Civic Procession arrived at the cathedral for the morning service, to the time that they arrived at the Garden of Remembrance. It was a special Remembrance Sunday service that year – firstly because it was the centenary of Armistice Day, 100 years since the First World War had come to an end on the 11th November 1918, and secondly because of an incident that involved the Lichfield Town Crier, Ken Knowles; a book I had written on 15 of the Lichfield Fallen from World War One…and a young man called Jubilee Albert Bladon…
Earlier in 2018 I had been commissioned by Lichfield City Council to write a booklet about some of the Lichield lads whose names appeared on the War Memorial. I had posted the stories of 12 of the 209 names that appeared on the memorial on my Jono’s Tourism Facebook page, listing one name each month from November 2017. The City Council asked me to publish the details of 15 names in total, so I added another three Fallen soldiers and the book was published in the autumn of 2018 with the title of ’15 Fallen Lichfield Soldeirs 1914-1918′. Sold at the Lichfield City Council offices, and at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, all monies raised from the book sales went to various charities including Help for Heroes.
One of the men’s stories really fascinated me beyond all of the others. Listed as A.E.Bladon on the War Memorial, his given name was actually Jubilee Albert Bladon. He was the adopted, and only son, of Charles and Ellen Arnold of 107 Stowe Street. He was born in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, and I assumed that he had been given that name with respect to that key event and to the name of her beloved husband, and Consort, Prince Albert.
Albert, befire the war, had been employed by the well-known building works firm of J R Deacon and Son. He was well liked in Lichfield and had been a junior teacher at St Chad’s Sunday School. He served in the Sherwood Forresters Notts and Derby Regiment. Jubilee Albert died on 2 August 1917, the day that over 1,000 British troops lost their lives during the Third Battle of Ypres. and his name is commemorated on the Ypres Menin Gate memorial in Belgium.
His name is listed on the War Memorial as A.E. Bladon, but I believed that to be a mistake made at the time that the names were inscribed on the memorial. When I wrote my Facebook post about Jubilee Albert I mentioned the fact that the initials listed on the memorial were, I believed, incorrect, and that it should have read as J.A. Bladon.
A couple of months after the booklet was published I was stood by the War Memorial on the 11th of the 11th as the service commenced. As it was the centenary of the cessation of World War One, Lichfield City Council had proposed that the names, and regiments, of each of the 209 names listed on the memorial be read out by the Sword Bearer, and Town Crier, Ken Knowles. The large crowds present, of course, fell silent, and Ken read out each name of the Fallen, one by one.
When he came to Bladon’s name however, something odd, and very moving happened. He should, by right, have read out Albert Bladon, as that is what is actually appears on the memorial. But, as he started to read out the name his voice grew and grew in strength and I heard him call out..”JUBILEE ALBERT Bladon…”.
Ken had used his full given name, and not the name that appeared in the records or on the memorial…and I knew exactly why he had done just that. He had done it beacuse he had read my booklet, and read the Facebook post about the truth behind Albert’s name and his initials. In addition he had raised his voice when he came to Bladon’s name…he did that deliberately, knowing that he was ‘correcting a wrong’ that had first appeared 100 years earlier and, undoubtedly, wanting me to know that he had read my story about Jubilee’s name, and his short life.
As Ken loudly read out the name Jubilee Albert Bladon, the intervening silence and the emotion became even more succinct and focussed. When I realised what he had just done, and why, the tears rolled down my cheeks and dripped on to the flagstones by the memorial. I had never met Jubilee Albert of cousre, and did not know anyone who had. My research told me what had happened to him after he was adopted by the Arnold’s of Stowe Street, his time in Lichfield but nothing about his life before that, or who his natural parents were. Despite this I felt that we Lichfiedians, 100 years later, recognised his, and all if his Fallen comrades, actions, heroism and dedication to their King, Country and City and my sadness, and pride, was almost overwhelming.
I never discussed this with Ken afterwards, althogh I had intened to, wanting to know if that is why he did what he did, wanting to know if he raised his voice deliberately, as a mark of respect to young Jubilee. But, to be honest, I did not need to speak with him about it. He did it for exactly those reasons, I have no doubt at all – Ken was a gentleman, a Lichfieldian, a man fascinated by the history and heritage of Lichfield, a man who recognised the incredible sacrifice that all those young men, including Jubilee Albert, had made.
A few weeks ago Kenneth John Knowles passed away after a short battle against cancer.
On Sunday 8 November the Lichfield Remembrance Sunday service will take place in the Garden of Remembrance by Minster Pool as it did in 2018, and as it has done since November 1920, but, for the first time in 100 years it will take place with no public attendance, no procession, no service at Lichfield Cathedral, and no sounding of the Last Post or lowering of regimental flags.
It will also take place without Lichfield’s Sword Bearer, Town Crier, and my friend, Ken Knowles.
Rest In Peace Ken Knowles, the King of the Town Criers, and Rest In Peace Jubilee Albert Baldon and all of the Lichfield Fallen from World War One, Two and all world conflicts.
Lest We Forget
8 November 2020
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