British and Commonwealth country expats living on Bainbridge Island gathered Sept. 19 to remember Queen Elizabeth II at an outdoor memorial at Lynwood Center.
As the solemn sounds of Big Ben’s bells rang out through the courtyard, more than 40 people stood in silence to pay their respects and mourn the loss of England’s longest-serving monarch, who died at age 96 Sept. 8.
Mark Kenny from Birmingham, England, and friend Richard Firth, founder of the 150-member “Bainbridge Brits Facebook group” planned the memorial.
Kenny said that hearing the news of the queen’s death was “deeply shocking and upsetting. It was always something that we knew was going to happen at some point, but in the back of your mind felt that this was the person that was going to be around forever.”
That evening, the Bainbridge Brits gathered for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit to comfort one another.
Firth and Kenny planned the memorial for the approximately 200 Brits and Commonwealth citizens living on BI because, “There’s obviously a lot of people that have a lot of respect for Her Majesty,” said Kenny, who shared that group members are feeling homesick watching the 10 days of mourning.
“This is a way for those people who want to actually get closure on Her Majesty. Not everybody wanted or was able to be up at 2 a.m. this morning to watch all the pageantry and the full services. So, we wanted to do something where we felt we could have closure ourselves and express to people that we’re here on the island as well,” Firth said.
At the memorial, BI Mayor Joe Deets said the United Kingdom has had an integral place in local history. On May 19, 1792, the British Warship “Discovery” dropped anchor between Bainbridge and Blake islands, and Capt. George Vancouver dispatched Lt. Peter Puget and Mstr. Joseph Whidbey to survey the waters.
“Vancouver’s expedition was the first visit to Puget Sound by Europeans. Our strong alliance ensures a free world. We share a common language, more or less, ideals and democratic practices. The United States has no closer ally than the United Kingdom. This pays off, and it really matters in times of conflict that our two countries will often work closely together.”
That includes now as they support democratic Ukraine against the Russian invasion. The world will be much worse off if the close relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States did not exist,” Deets said.
Kenny said the queen’s death brought the local Brits together. “It’s been a very emotional time, and it’s certainly a time that has brought us Brits closer together, especially after not seeing each other since the COVID pandemic,” Kenny said.
As guests mingled and drank wine and pints of ale after the service, Firth said, “There’s a village community here. We didn’t know if there would be twenty or a hundred here. This was just lovely, to just fetch us right.”
The service closed with the playing of the British National Anthem performed by Bainbridge High School students Connor Firth and Henry Burruss and ended with three cheers to His Majesty the King, “Hip, Hip, Hurray!”