Tribute to town’s most famous daughter

The heroic life of Wisbech born Octavia Hill has been held up as a pattern for a younger generation to follow.

At a memorial service at St Peter’s Church, Wisbech, on Sunday (December 2) members of the Wisbech detachment of the Cambridgeshire army cadet force were urged to take inspiration from the woman who played a central part in the founding of the modern army cadet movement.

Licensed lay minister Keith Aplin said that when Octavia Hill identified a need she began to do something about it herself, drawing like-minded people to her cause and raising the money that was needed – and the Rev Carol Monk, chaplain of the Surrey army cadet force, urged the cadets attending to take on the values and standards of the founder of their movement.

The service was a highlight of the 26th annual Octavia Hill Society commemoration day recalling the social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust, who in 1889 helped to form the first battalion of army cadets that was solely recruited from the working class and met at Red Cross Hall, near London Bridge.

Earlier in the day the annual memorial lecture was given at the Birthplace House at 7 South Brink by Colour Sergeant Tim Scargill, of the Surrey army cadet force, who spoke about his life in the army cadets.

During the service he read the names of former cadets memorialised on a plaque in Southwark Cathedral who lost their lives in the Boer War, beginning with their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel  Albert  Salmond, who for the benefit of London working boys raised the 1st Cadet Battalion and who met his death at Deelfontein in 1902.

The former members of the cadet battalion commemorated on the plaque were Corporal G.W. Pritchard, Lance Corporal A.J. Rhodes, Private A.V. Underwood, Drummer G.E. Yeeles, Private Harry Daw, Private H.H. Chilvers, Private Percy Chatterton, Sergeant W. Griffen, Private G.H. Weber and Private Harry Parker, and the words chosen for their epitaph were:  “Quit you like men.”

The Bible reading, urging hearers to put on the whole armour of God as they answered the call to duty or danger, was given by Colonel Mark Knight MBE, commandant of the Cambridgeshire army cadet force.

Mr Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, told the youngsters attending the service that they could follow in the heroic footsteps of Octavia Hill, helping to create a better world for others to enjoy.

He thanked Keith Aplin for leading the service and the Clarkson Singers for their performance of ‘Only remembered’, from the film, ‘War horse’, and a selection of songs from the trenches.

He also applauded members of the Cambridgeshire and Surrey army cadets for coming together to engage with the new Operation Noble pioneered by Colour Sergeant Scargill, which is helping to promote a partnership with local authorities and emphasising the debt that the 40,000 cadets around the country owe to their founder, Octavia Hill.

Mr Clayton said:  “We have had another successful day, this year concentrating on one of Octavia Hill’s less known achievements, the founding of the army cadets.”