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SSI John Tillotson Suffolk ACF – Invitation to Westminster…

“Together for Christmas” Service Hosted by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

SSI John Tillotson Suffolk ACF – Invitation to Westminster Abbey

15 December 2021

  • Suffolk ACF

SSI John Tillotson Suffolk ACF – Invitation to Westminster Abbey

“Together for Christmas” Service Hosted by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge Wednesday 8 December 2021I received the invitation in the post only a week before the event, which was a total surprise to me, but very humbling nonetheless. Not until I read the Order of Service whilst in the Abbey did I fully understand why I was there frankly, but I was in very esteemed company together with all those who had made a real effort in the fight against Covid-19 over the last 2 years. In terms of Covid 19 - we had paraded normally on Monday 23rd March and the PM announced we were in lockdown by Thursday 26th March, which was when I was due to parade again. Thinking quickly however we went virtual on that Thursday and I think we were amongst the first nationally to do this. Then the work really started, a whole new world and a steep learning curve emerged on how to keep young people engaged twice a week, week in week out and eventually running 4 Detachments virtually as well, right up until the spring of this year.So the invite to Westminster Abbey by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, was in reflection for all the work that attendees had put in over a period of 2 years and for me, it was a thank you my commitment to the Cadets of Suffolk ACF. For me I sensed that I represented all Cadets and CFAVs at Suffolk ACF and for all their combined efforts. I took the train down to London Liverpool Street then the tube to Westminster, where there was a large Police presence and I have to say they were very helpful when I asked where I needed to be. I joined the queue of other invitee’s and as we moved slowly to the security check point where the atmosphere was really warm with everyone chatting away and all seemed to be interested in my volunteering role and I in turn was interested in the work done by others in their local communities; there was an air of kindness everywhere. On entering the Abbey, it was certainly awe inspiring as we were all directed by the Abbey staff to our seats. Where I sat I guess I would have been 30 or so metres opposite from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were looking around at all the invitees, and clearly very happy to be in the Abbey. The service went ahead with traditional Christmas hymns, carols and readings and Leona Lewis sang ‘O’ Holy Night; an atmosphere and spirit in the Abbey that I will never forget. Once the service concluded, people chatted as we made our way out of the Abbey, then I returned on the train back home. What a truly great day and one that I will never forget.