Monday, November 12, 2007

A time to remember

So here we are again, Remembrance Sunday, so as is my wont, I and J....(Australian/Latvian and in a past life an HR manager), D...(English -ex member of Her Majesties finest - RAF) and I set off to once again take part in the service at the Nikolay cemetery in Jelgava.

This time we had two new faces, The military attache Lt. Col. L.R. Wilson and of course our new Ambassador Mr Richard Moon. No prizes for guessing who did not have shiny shoes !! - what is it with our ambassadors, can they not afford shoe polish ? ( sorry this shoe thing is one of my little fetishes, that and ironing socks!).

For the first time since I have been attending the service we actually had a beautiful sunny morning, albeit a little chilly. Attendance was good, with about 40+ civil and military persons in attendance, and for the first time a singer was present, complete with a PA system to provide leadership in the hymn Abide with me. Just as well because with exception of the Earl of Carlisle, no one else sang a note.

As ever it was time for quiet reflection on the those that have goner before their time, as well as a time for remembering all of the military personnel currently engaged in conflicts throughout the world.

As ever following the service of Remembrance, we then went the short distance to pay our respects at the Latvian memorial, where wreaths were laid alongwith a small service.

Now it was intersting to note that D... had little knowledge of the background to why there is a British Wat memorial in Latvia, so if like him who are not aware of history, then very briefly -

While Britain celebrated the armistice in November 1918, the Baltic States continued to struggle for their independence. German troops remained in occupation following the cessation of hostilities in Western Europe and both the Bolsheviks and the ‘White’ Russians refused to recognise the independence of the three Baltic States. Britain and her Allies had already accorded the Baltic States recognition, but it was not until the Armistice that it was possible to take military steps to assist them.

While it was decided not to deploy any land forces to the Baltic States, the British Government took the decision “in the case of the Baltic provinces, to protect, as far as we can, the nascent nationalities with our Fleet.” From the outset British Naval Forces were to prove vital to Latvia’s struggle for independence. In April 1919, following an attack upon the Latvian General Head Quarters, President Karlis Ulmanis sought refuge upon the SARATOV; a merchant vessel operating under the protection of the Royal Navy.

President Ulmanis was to remain aboard the SARATOV until 27 June when he landed at Liepaja to resume the reins of government.
The British operation in the Baltics lasted until 1920.

At its conclusion the lives of 128 British seamen had been lost. Each November the British Ambassador lays a wreath in the Gulf of Riga to commemorate the deaths of 9 men on board the HMS DRAGON. These men fell to a volley of fire from a shore battery whilst repelling the advance of pro-German forces upon Riga.

Can I suggest you also visit the web site www.hmsdragon1919.co.uk/16226.html where you can full details on the background on the conflict, as well as a full list of those who died.

Again sticking with tradition, we after arriving back in Riga we retired to the village lounge to partake of a little refreshment, and to toast the memory of those who had died.

Saturday proved to be relatively uneventful, in the morning along with J.... ( German Sparky) we purchased all the cables, lights etc for Zvannieki, and hopefully he will complete this work before the end of this week - subsequently met up with J.....( Latvian vicar of note and is it a coincidence that his initials are JC ?) in order deliver said electrical items to him for transportation to the home.

The afternoon saw an absolute festival of Rugby, however I constrained myself with watching the latter part of the Leinster game, and all of the Edinburgh game, before retiring home to watch the Wasps v Munster.

Continuing on a rugby theme on Sunday afternoon I took myself back to the village lounge to watch the Clermont v Llannelli game, but a small problem arose. As no one of the village rugby fraternity had arrived to watch the game at 3.00pm, and indeed I was late in arriving to Watch the Wasps game kick of at 5.00pm, the bar staff had at the request of those in attendance to put on the Chelsea Football game on all the Tv's.

I have to confess I was little miffed, but I suppose in fairness to all, it would have been a little difficult for the staff too suddenly advise that he was switching the TV to the rugby, just because I had arrived. The situation was not helped by the arrival of J.... (Irish - with just a little hint of Celtic anger) who like me had assumed that as it was advertised, the game would be on. But having vented his frustration, he swiftly departed. There is nothing like a rugby man deprived of his game !

However as it transpired a solution of sorts was finally found, the TV in the smoking corridor was switched over to the rugby. So there I sat in splendid isolation, until the end of the first half, which thankfully coincided with the end of the football match, so I was able to return to the bar and watch the second half of the game in comfort, as it has to be said that the smoking corridor is not the warmest of places. So for me at least all was well in the end.

So on that I will finish, other to remind everyone that as Christmas is once again approaching, we will again be asking all and sundry to open their hearts and wallets to support out Christmas appeal for the children at Zvannieki. We will again be hosting a Christmas dinner on 13th December, so for those of you can attend please let me know. The inclusive price will be Ls30.00 per head. If you cannot make it, well you wil miss great night if last year is anything to go by - but fear not, if you cannot send yourself, then just send the money to Zvannieki bank account at the Rietumu Bank.

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