Hundreds of British and Commonwealth citizens who have made aliyah to Israel gathered at the Ramle Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery on Sunday to attend the annual ceremonies commemorating the servicemen killed in the two World Wars, held this year in the shadow of the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the First World War in 1914.
Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside for this memorial service. It either falls on Armistice Day, November 11, or close to that date, in memory of the fact that hostilities ceased at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Ramle, today a mixed Jewish and Arab city in the coastal plain south of Tel Aviv, was the site of an Australian field hospital that operated during WWI, making it natural that the town become the burying place for many of the fallen soldiers whose final resting place is so far from their homes. Other WWI cemeteries for soldiers who fought in or near Palestine in the Great War are in Haifa, at Jerusalem's Mount Scopus, in Gaza and Beer Sheva
The ceremony at the beautifully kept cemetery was attended by some 45 World War Two veterans, medals gleaming on their chests, who live in Israel. Members of the families of WWII soldiers, some proudly wearing a late father or grandfather's medals were also present, as were the military attachés of Commonwealth, European and many other countries, members of the diplomatic corps of these countries and a Guard of Honour of the Israel Defense Forces.
In attendance this year were two Chelsea Pensioners, members of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, dressed in their red uniforms, who came especially for this event from London. One of them had served with the British Forces in Palestine during WWII.
The assembly was addressed, on a beautifully sunny day, by HM Ambassador to Israel, HE Mr. Matthew Gould CMG MBE who welcomed those present and especially the WWII servicemen to whom he expressed a special gratitude for serving their country so honorably. He added that we have a special duty to honor our dead, and that this is being done simultaneously in the many Commonwealth cemeteries throughout the world, noting that soldiers from various countries are buried near one another in Ramle. "All lie alongside comrades or near former foes. All are equal before God."
Colonel Nigel Jefferson, the British Defense Attaché, was the master of ceremonies and called upon members of the diplomatic corps, military attachés and clergy to read acts of remembrance and prayers.
Following the laying of wreaths by representatives of commonwealth and other nations and representatives of organizations, the service was concluded and a separate ceremony, conducted by an IDF Rabbi and Cantor, was held in the Jewish area of the cemetery where Jewish stars can be seen on the headstones of the fallen WWI servicemen..
The cemetery is maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission whose members are from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. They are responsible for cemeteries containing war dead of members of the British Commonwealth from the First and Second World Wars and other conflicts as well as the remains of soldiers from other nations that fought as both allies and foes.