This post was written by Don Rhodes and has been published here as part of the Tameside remembers veterans heritage project.
The act of remembrance
For some, the act of remembering our war dead happens only once a year. Not for veterans. The Books of Remembrance for the Manchester Regiment are held in the Regimental Chapel at Manchester Cathedral. They hold the name and rank of every member of the regiment who has fallen. Veterans gather to turn the pages every two weeks.
The Turning of The Leaves of The Books of Remembrance takes place on Wednesday every two weeks at 12.45pm. The participants parade through the Cathedral behind the Verger and Standards of the Manchester and Kings Regiments into The Regimental Chapel.
There follows a simple, dignified ceremony overseen by a verger from the Cathedral during which seven veterans turn the leaves of the seven books and the Collects of the Manchester, Kings and Duke of Lancaster’s Regiments are read. Memorials are also read in the memory of recently deceased veterans. The verger then gives short prayers for peace, Queen and Commonwealth.
The Regimental Chapel was originally a Chantry, founded in 1513, dedicated to St John the Baptist. In 1936 Lord Derby allowed its dedication as The Regimental Chapel of the Manchester Regiment. The Regiment refitted the Chapel with furniture, a refurnished Altar, and the hanging of the old Regimental Colours. Included in the refurbishment was a shrine containing five Memorial Books recording the 14,209 names of men of The Manchester Regiment who gave their lives in the war of 1914/18.
The first Turning the Leaves took place on the 1st July 1937 and thereafter was carried out weekly by members of the Regiment. On 23rd December 1940 a German bomb exploded near the north eastern corner of the Chapel, fortuitously The Altar Cross, Candlesticks and Memorial Books had earlier been taken to a place of safety. The Shrine of was repaired and a new one added to commemorate those of the Regiment who fell in the post WW1 campaigns of Mesopotamia, Ireland, Palestine and WW2. Later further Shrines were added, for those who fell after 1945, especially in Malaya. On the 16th November 1951 H.M. Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), Colonel in Chief of the
Regiment, attended the rededication of the restored Chapel and Turned the Leaves of the new Book of Remembrance. The territorial 8th (Ardwick) Battalion provided a Guard of Honour.
In 1958 The Manchester Regiment amalgamated with the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment to become The 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment (commonly 1 Kings), and the chapel became The Chapel of The 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment. Later a book was added in remembrance of those of 1 Kings who were murdered by IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland. Another book was added dedicated to those gallant men awarded the Victoria Cross or George Cross.
On Saturday 15th June 1996, IRA terrorists bombed Manchester, this time the damage to the Cathedral was mainly confined to the Worthington Memorial Window. Further amalgamations on 1st July 2006 mean The Chapel is now The Regimental Chapel of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. A page has been added to honour those of The Lancs who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus we have seven Books of Remembrance.
In the time up to the 1958 amalgamation various dignitaries, including The Lord Mayor, attended the ceremony on November 11th and they also turned the leaves.
It is unclear just when the Manchester Regiment Old Comrades Association took on the responsibility for the turning, but it would appear to have been around the time of the amalgamation in 1958. I hope the above will, in some small part, convey why the old comrades are so dedicated to the continuation of this act of remembrance and turn up fortnightly regardless of rain snow hail or ice. Some of them are now a little unsteady on parade but are nonetheless determined to be there.
Calling all veterans!
The team from The Manchester Regiment Old Comrades Association who turn the leaves would be delighted to welcome any veterans who would like to become involved. Obviously the chapel is associated with the Manchester, Kings and Duke of Lancaster’s Regiments but there are members from other Regiments and Services. Anybody is welcome to watch the ceremony and to meet afterwards in the Crown and Anchor.
When are the next ceremonies?
24th October Kings Regiment (Northern Ireland)
7th November Inkerman
21st November 25th,26th and 27th Battalions
5th December 10th and 24th Battalions (Oldham)
19th December The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
2nd January 1st and 2nd Battalions
16th January The Kings Regiment
30st January Turning of The Leaves
13th February Turning of The Leaves
27th February Ladysmith
13th March 16th Battalion
27th March 3rd Battalion (Cleethorpes)
10th April The Kings Regiment
24th April 2nd Battalion (Kohima)
8th May Burma
22rd May Gallipoli
5th June Malaya
19th June Formation of The Kings Regiment
3rd July Formation of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
17th July 11th,12th,13th and 14th Battalions
31st July Blenhiem
14th August 8th and 9th Battalions
28th August The Pals Battalions
11th September Delhi Day
25th September Other Conflicts
9th October Elandslaagte (11.30am St Anne’s Sq)
23th October Kings Regiment (Northern Ireland)
6th November Inkerman
20st November 25th,26th and 27th Battalions
4th December 10th and 24th Battalions (Oldham)
18th December The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
How do I get involved?
Check the association’s Facebook group for the latest news.