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ArticlesKeeping up the Standard - Margery Hookings

Keeping up the Standard – Margery Hookings

Every year, it’s only at the eleventh hour that I remember to ring Sam Trott about my village fun day parade.
But every time, he’s always accommodating—one step ahead, in fact, because he leads the procession.
‘It’s all right,” he says, “we’ve got it in the diary.”
Sam’s our pace man, he keeps the straggling parade of village shields together. Without him, we’d be an unruly rabble. At the head of the parade, he carries his Royal British Legion banner with professionalism and pride, although I was a bit worried this year when the owner of two donkeys (the fete’s theme was Summer Holiday) walking either side of Sam said it was quite possible the animals might have to stop at some point to answer a call of nature or just to be contrary.
I was so concerned Sam would feel offended. He was nothing of the sort.
“I won’t do it again unless the donkeys are in it,” says Sam, with a characteristic twinkle in his eye.
He’s been leading Broadwindsor Fun Day parade for many years now, ever since I, as one of the organisers, realised he was the local standard bearer for the RBL. He’s been in the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall five times, carried the standard at parades and memorial services and been a part of the guard of honour at the funerals of old soldiers and military personnel killed in action. He’s also carried the Dorset county standard on several occasions. So who better than this calm and capable man to be our village fete figurehead? And he is always so obliging.
The Broadwindsor flag is now at Bovington, as the branch, like so many others, is no longer running because of dwindling numbers. The original flag hangs in the village church and Sam now carries the Beaminster branch’s standard. Sam, 81, will be busy on Remembrance Sunday, with three services at Drimpton, Beaminster, where there is an afternoon parade from the fire station to St Mary’s Church, and Broadwindsor, where a lone trumpeter plays Last Post from the open bell ringing chamber.
As usual, Sam’s wife, Mary, 77, will be running the annual poppy coffee morning at Broadwindsor Craft Centre on Thursday 5 November from 10am until noon. As Broadwindsor and District Poppy Organiser (“I’d love to hand it over to someone else now,” she says), Mary has a small army of collectors to call upon, including Sam, who has one of the biggest patches, covering outlying farms and places up the narrowest of lanes.
“I wasn’t even in the British Legion to start off with,” Sam recalls. He used to play darts, dominoes and skittles every now and then around the district with other members.
“And then I was asked if I’d come along to a meeting at Broadwindsor. I thought as I was playing the games I’d just as well join,” Sam says.
“One night, I was picked up and was told we couldn’t go straight to the meeting because we had to pick up a standard. They didn’t know who was going to take it on, because Ron Wilson, the chap who’d done it, had retired. It was the AGM, in 2001, and they were looking for a standard bearer. I thought someone else would do it but there was dead silence. I said I didn’t mind having a go and that’s how it happened.”
Hours of drilling by Nita Spencer, from Beaminster, who had been a past winner of Women’s National Standard Bearer of the Year, taught him all he needed to know.
“She was kind and strict and a wonderful help to me.”
Not long after, the branch was looking for a poppy appeal organiser and Mary was persuaded to become involved.
“I said I’d do it for five years and it’s been eleven or twelve now,” she says.
Sam, who was born and brought up at Fishpond, near Bridport, was working on a farm at Pildson when he met Mary. It was also when his national service call-up papers came.
“It was deferred for six months because I was in a reserved occupation and then for another six months. Then the call-up papers came and I thought, I don’t want to stay on a farm all my life, I want to go in the army.”
After two years, he joined up as a regular soldier in the 5th Dragoon Guards, leaving a year later with the rank of lance corporal.
“I didn’t fancy the infantry, all that walking everywhere. I wanted to drive tanks. We were going to the Gaza Strip but it didn’t happen. We went to Catterick and then ended up at Bovington, which meant I could come home every weekend.”
After his military service, Sam came back to west Dorset, putting his new skills to good use to become a lorry driver, retiring in 1999 from Yeovil Plant Hire, where he had been running the depot at Taunton.
He will be at home in the bungalow he’s shared with Mary for the past forty-eight years to watch this year’s Festival of Remembrance, which commemorates and honours all those who have lost their lives in conflicts, at home. Sam is keenly aware of all the work involved.
Participants have to be at the Royal Albert Hall at seven-thirty in the morning. They have two rehearsals and a packed lunch (which Sam always spent with Mary across the road in Kensington Gardens). The event itself is both enjoyable and moving at the same time.
Says Mary: “It’s a very emotional experience and makes me cry.”
For Sam, it’s a proud memory.
“It’s funny,” he says. “Before I was even in the Royal British legion, I’d always wanted to go to the Festival of Remembrance. I used to think ‘that would be a nice thing to do’, never ever thinking I would be in it.”

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