To find the origins of the Bedworth Armistice Day Parade and Service, we must go back to 1921 and a local schoolteacher, Alfred Lawrence.
Mr Lawrence had seen active service in the Great War and was instrumental in founding the Bedworth Branch of the Royal British Legion. In 1921, Alfred Lawrence organised the first Armistice Day Parade, so the tradition has continued through the Second World War and into the present day.
After Alfred Lawrence, Tom Bucknall, a Great War veteran, took over the organisation. Tom oversaw the Parade until after the Second World War when the reins passed to Maurice Smart, a local businessman and war veteran who kept the Parade and Service going until 1986 when Frank Parsons, an ex-Royal Marine Commando and World War Two veteran, took over the organising role.
In September 1993, local business man Gil Leach, who was too young to be in the War, but had a great love of Spitfires and flying, joined Frank as Fly Past Organiser. By 1996 the parade had grown so much that they decided to form a committee to help them.
Since then, the Armistice Day Parade has never looked back, and Frank, Gil and the Committee must be credited with making the Parade the national and international event it is today. Sadly, Frank passed away in July 2011, but his legacy is the finest Armistice Parade in Britain, now captained by Ken Whitehead and his dedicated committee.
The Armistice Day Parade grew beyond all recognition from its first humble beginnings in 1921, but it still retains its fundamental role; to honour the dead of the two World Wars and to honour those who have given their lives since on fields of conflict around the globe. It is a day when Bedworth hosts over 7,000 people.
Many participate in the parade, including The Coventry Pipes and Drums, The Royal Marines Corps of Drums and the 121 ATC Band. There are around 30 standard bearers and hundreds of veterans from all over the country who come to pay their respects to the fallen. The Navy, Army and Air Cadets also participate with St. John Ambulance, Young Firemen, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and local school children.
The salute is taken by the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, The Mayor of Nuneaton and Bedworth, the MP for Bedworth, the MP for Nuneaton and high-ranking officers.
In previous years this moving service has been punctuated by the roar of Wright Cyclone R-1820 engines as a DC-3 Dakota has made a low-level run over the War Memorial. Sadly the Dakota has moved from its base at Bagington and is no longer available. The following year (2017), the committee secured the services of a Beechcraft Model 18 twin-engine aircraft (built-in 1939 and saw service in WW2) and crew who did a dead-on run over the parade, and once again, poppy petals filled the November sky. Sadly, this has been sold to a private buyer and has gone abroad.
In 2020, although it was a restricted service due to Covid-19, the committee found an old Tiger Moth to do the flypast and drop poppies around Bedworth. It was a service to remember along with the haunting notes of the “Last Post”, the tears and the quiet pride of men and women gathered there.