A service of remembrance was held yesterday on 8 November to give colleagues in our Manchester Support Centre a chance to remember the 810 colleagues from the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS – the predecessor of today’s Co-op) who lost their lives during WWI.
Led by Nick Crofts, President of the National Members’ Council, the service was centred around a recreation of the 1930’s memorial to the fallen which is built into one of the old CWS buildings in the city. Also on hand was Funeralcare’s poppy hearse – decorated with 100 poppies to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
The event started with colleagues across Co-op taking it in turn to read each of these 810 names out loud – an incredibly moving moment for everyone. This simple act of remembrance brought to life the real people behind the names – not just words on a memorial wall. Special thanks to colleagues Catherine Hopkins, Martin Dickinson, Sarah Doherty, Rebecca Kijko, Mark Wilcock, Annette Elliott, Robert Cohen and Harold Linton, from our Retired Employees Association, who joined me in those readings.
Nick then led a short service of thanks and remembrance. Telling stories from the archives of CWS activities during the war, how activities during the war lead to the Co-operative Party and even the story of how the white poppy has its origins with the Co-operative Women’s Guild. He also explained how the Armistice wasn’t just a single day at the end of the war – but instead had been a process that started months beforehand. Looking back exactly 100 years to the 8 November 1918, this was the day when the German Armistice delegation arrived at the Allied General Headquarters.
As he led us through the famous ‘We will remember them’ verse from Robert Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ poem, the Last Post played out, inviting every colleague in the building to fall silent for two minutes in remembrance.
After a fitting and emotional tribute, The Pioneers Co-op Choir then finished off with Dona Nobis Parcem (Grant Us Peace) and a short medley of WWI songs.
All week we’d been inviting colleagues to add an extra poppy to our ‘100 of remembrance.’ This was then taken to the central Manchester War Memorial in St Peter’s Square with a note that read ‘In memory of the 810 employees of The Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited who gave their lives for their country in the great war 1914-1918. Thank you to all who have served, sacrificed and changed our world from colleagues at today’s Co-op.’ This ‘100’ was laid by Nick Crofts on behalf of the National Members’ Council, Frank Nelson on behalf of retired colleagues, and myself on behalf of all colleagues.
It was an honour, a privilege and an emotional rollercoaster to have been involved in this.
We will remember them.
Colleague Communications Manager
If any colleague feels affected by anything, remember that our Employee Assistance Programme is here to help: 0800 069 8854