Coronavirus Forces Cancellation Of 2 Mercian Memorial Pilgrimage

For the first time in nearly 100 years, troops have cancelled an annual journey to Derbyshire, instead holding a church service in Cyprus.

Soldiers from 2 Mercian held a church service in Cyprus in place of their annual pilgrimage to a Derbyshire memorial.

For the first time in nearly a century, troops were unable to visit the Regimental Memorial Crich because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Personnel instead held a service at Episkopi's garrison church.

"This is the first time I've not been able to attend Crich since I've been a Mercian, so it's a bit of a shame, but we're making do as best as we can," Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, said.

"We're lucky that the restrictions here in Cyprus are less than [in] the UK, so we have some more freedoms that perhaps they don't have back in the UK."

 Members of 2 Mercian attend church service in Cyprus 060720 CREDIT BFBS.jpg

The pilgrimage to the Mercian Regiment war memorial is a focal point for the regiment and they have travelled to the site on the first Sunday of July for nearly 100 years.

The Crich memorial is dedicated to those who served before them and paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the Mercian Regiment and its antecedents.

As part of the regional standby battalion, 2 Mercian are on 48 hours notice to move, meaning that they are not required to socially distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It meant a church service was possible for them to attend.

"I think what coronavirus is teaching us, is how important those physical things are," Lt Col Davis said.

"It's just not the same as physically being there," he added.

Soldiers from 2 Mercian at Garrison Church in Episkopi Cyprus 060720 CREDIT BFBS.jpg

Despite marking the day away from their usual place, soldiers from 2 Mercian were determined to pay their respects to those who served before them.

"It's not the same," 2nd Lieutenant Douglas Mileham said.

"However, these circumstances are unprecedented and I think the ceremony today was fitting.

"It would have been nice to be able to get up to Crich itself, but I think the ceremony today meant a lot to a lot of people."

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment deployed to Cyprus have recently had their tour extended because of the coronavirus crisis.

They were due to return to the UK in the summer after two years on the island as part of the Regional Standby Battalion, but the soldiers and their families will not remain in Cyprus until the end of 2020.

It is hoped the soldiers' Derbyshire pilgrimage can be resumed next year.