THE heavens opened and thousands of poppies rained down on a new war memorial which honours the war dead of two villages for the first time in nearly a century.

The sky turned momentarily red as the last notes of the hymn Jerusalem sounded at the end of the dedication of the Pensax and Stockton War Memorial for Peace on Monday. The monument honours for the first time 16 men of the parish who perished in the First World War and two who died in the Second World War.

An introduction and welcome was given by the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Lt Col Patrick Holcroft before the monument was dedicated by the Bishop of Worcester, the right reverend Dr John Inge. A prayer was said by Rev Louise Grace. while pupils from the Chantry High School Choir performed The Lord's Prayer and Foley Park School Choir performed "No wars will stop us singing".

David Blakeway Smith, chairman of the war memorial group, who came up with the idea of the memorial 14 year ago, said as people sang "O clouds unfold!", they literally did. A shower of 4,000 poppies cascaded down, dropped from a high wing monoplane piloted by David Johnstone of the Herefordshire Gliding Club.

He said they had already sung the hymn once but decided to do so again, ahead of the drop.

He said: "It was a magnificent sight, a lovely sight. All eyes went up to the heavens and everyone was singing at the same time. Everyone was moved."

In his speech at the dedication Mr Blakeway Smith said: "In 1919 immediately after the First World War, Pensax Parish Council records state that 'There will not be a War Memorial in Pensax because the village is too poor'.

"Because of this, the sixteen young men from the village who gave their lives have not been honoured and remembered for nearly 100 years. They have been forgotten.

"After the conflict, war memorials were erected in every village, town and city to give public recognition for the sacrifice of the men and to give a place for their relatives to come and grieve the loss of their loved ones.

"Pensax and Stockton have never had a memorial. Today, they have - and not just any memorial. It is unique. Now, after 100 years, some relatives present today have a place to grieve for their loved ones.

"These four very hard basalt stones from the Clee Hills stand as a symbol of our gratitude for the men who once attended our school, walked our lanes and worked in our fields and who sacrificed their lives for us."

Wreaths were laid, standards lowered and a two minute silence held and the Last Post was played.