Belvedere poppies a poignant symbol
POPPIES have begun flowering at Belvedere Field, much to the joy of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Charitable Trust.
Belvedere Field was the spiritual home of the RGLI, the Guernsey unit that fought in the First World War.
The field was the last location the RGLI ever paraded as a complete unit on 1 June 1917. Afterwards they marched to the harbour and set sail for France. Many of them never returned.
The field also became the hub of local commemorative centenary events, many of which were organised by the RGLI Charitable Trust.
Trust principal Chris Oliver said: ‘As far as I’m aware – I haven’t heard anything, I haven’t seen any news article, I haven’t heard of a charity group planting them but, of course, I may be wrong – these poppies have grown of their own accord and that is special. To come into bloom so close to the commemorations for the D-Day landings, really that is nothing short of amazing.’
‘It is home turf for the RGLI and the location of their last ever march as a unit. By the time the RGLI returned to the island on 22 May 1919 they were shadows of their former selves, wounded war victims, that had seen so much horror and bloodshed. In truth many never returned at all, leaving behind widows and young families.’
The RGLI is an important piece of local heritage and the existence of their parade ground in 2019, Mr Oliver believes, is an invaluable tool for remembrance.
‘The First World War stripped a whole generation of young men and boys from their families and homes. War is not just an economic effect, it is an immense personal tragedy. The victory parade of the RGLI in 1919 would have been so bitter-sweet for those involved and it meant the beginning of huge upheaval for so many forced to leave the island or to start again. We must always remember that war is a terrible, dreadful thing that should stay far past the last resort. But also remember those who had to experience it,’ said Mr Oliver.