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Arnhem 2014 - The Grayburn Tour

The Tribute on behalf of Chiltern RFC by past-President Chris Smith.
Arnhem War Cemetery, Oosterbeek
Saturday 3 May 2014

I'd like to read a poem from the First World War written by Harry Riley:

Remember me
Duty called and I went to war
Though I'd never fired a gun before
I paid the price for your new day
As all my dreams were blown away

Remember me
We all stood true as whistles blew
And faced the shell and stench of Hell
Now battle's done, there is no sound
Our bones decay beneath the ground
We cannot see, or smell, or hear
There is no death, or hope or fear

Remember me
Once we, like you, would laugh and talk
And run and walk and do the things that you all do
But now we lie in rows so neat
Beneath the soil, beneath your feet

Remember me
In mud and gore and the blood of war
We fought and fell and move no more
Remember me, I am not dead
I'm still a voice within your head

Sadly our President, Peter Osborne is unable to be with us today so he has kindly asked me to speak in his place.

We are gathered at the graveside of Jack Grayburn VC, a Chiltern player from before the war who died here at Arnhem 70 years ago. Jack was one of 22 Chiltern players, one third of all the active players at the club in 1939, who went to war and did not return. Many rugby clubs and indeed all sports clubs lost young men and young women and what really chokes me is walking around cemeteries such as this and just looking at the ages of those buried here. To go to war is a terrible thing, and to have the courage to fight with honour as they all did, all so bravely, none more so than Jack Grayburn. Today, as we stand amongst these graves, we remember the fallen from all nations who fought and died with honour for a cause in which they believed.

We must remember that these brave men and women fought and died so that we could enjoy our freedom, the good life that we lead, the simple fact that we are free to come to Arnhem this weekend, to travel where we like, when we like, the freedom to believe, to speak freely, to live in a democratic society.

Jack Grayburn was by all accounts an extraordinary man from an extraordinary family, and we were fortunate to meet his son John recently at the club when Jack’s VC was literally dropped in to the club by seven members of the Red Devils from the Parachute regiment on an unforgettable day in March. On that day and afterwards we have heard from other families who lost a father at war. Today we remember them all.

Jack’s heroism has been well documented and you all have had the chance to understand and appreciate something of his story. You will learn more when we visit the Operation Market Garden museum following our visit here. But first, we are here to pay our respects to this remarkable man. This does not have to be a religious occasion but perhaps we should all now pause for a few seconds to think about him, his sacrifice, and that of all the others here in this cemetery and in hundreds of other cemeteries in Europe and around the world. And let us also remember all sportsmen and women who have gone to war and not returned.

I now am going to ask Jerry Green to lay a wreath on Jack’s grave on behalf of the club.

Wreath laying

I would like to read just verse 4 of Laurence Binyon’s famous poem, The Fallen, after which we will observe two minutes silence.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Two minutes silence

If Jack were here now I sure that he would have been impressed that so many from his rugby club have taken the trouble to visit his grave and to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem. He would have been particularly impressed that the Under 15s are here. Firstly as in his day, there was no mini or junior section in our club, and secondly, to look at these young rugby players with a bright future ahead of them, a future that for him was cut tragically short. So we gather here – the young, the old and the very old (!) to pay our respects to a soldier and a teammate. It has been suggested that we have three cheers as Jack would have done at the end of one of his Chiltern games. I feel that in this place of tranquility and with other visitors paying their respects, we will save this until after today’s games where hopefully we will be victorious and can cheer with real gusto.

Thank you

Where next?

Cycling to Arnhem Four club members with a combined age of 232 years arrived at the Club on the morning of 30 April to
Arnhem RC ARNHEM 1XV 35 - 51 CHILTERN WANDERERS XXVIII On Saturday, after the moving tribute to Jack Graybu

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