South Shields remembers her fallen.
Remembrance Sunday in South Tyneside
As Her Majesty the Queen led the nation’s tributes by paying respect to our fallen heroes at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, here in South Tyneside a number of remembrance events took place around the borough coinciding with the televised event in London. Services were held in South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn, Cleadon Village, Whitburn Village and East Boldon where parades and wreath laying ceremonies took place. As a “Shieldsman” I was remarking with friends yesterday evening how much the popularity and feeling for our armed services has increased steadily over recent years, and this shows itself in the numbers who now attend the ceremony at Westoe Cenotaph. The recent long running conflicts in Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent Libya, have reinforced in our minds the professionalism, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice given by our armed services and we welcome this opportunity to show our respect and homage to those who never made it home.
It was a dull misty and damp morning in South Shields as the parade assembled behind the Town Hall in Westoe Road, the moisture shrouded the clock tower of the proud old building and muffled the sound of the tolling bell of St. Bede’s church, as the clock chimed at 10:30 the parade commenced led by the Harton and Westoe Brass Band to make its way up the hill of Westoe Road to the Cenotaph. The salute was taken by Deputy Mayor Cllr. Eileen Leask and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, hundreds of participants representing the armed services, veterans organisations, the Royal British Legion, and youth organisations filed past watched by an expectant crowd. Once at Westoe they were met by the Revd. Paul Kennedy, Vicar of St. Michael and All the Angels, and Father Michael Wemyss of St. Bede’s parish church who jointly conducted the ceremony. Huge crowds had gathered unperturbed by the damp chill weather to participate in a respectful two minutes silence at 11:00 am preceding a short service and the wreath laying ceremony.
Leading the tributes on behalf of the Borough of South Tyneside were Deputy Mayor Eileen Leask, Council Leader Iain Malcolm, and Chief Executive Martin Swales. Wreaths representing all sections of our community were laid and it was heart warming to see one gentleman still marching to this event and taking part on behalf of his buddies at the ripe young age of 91. As you look through these dull and greyish pictures, spare a thought for the younger generation, there were many of them there this morning, brownies, scouts, Air Training Corps, Army Cadets, T. S. Collingwood, Royal Marine Cadets, Boys Brigade and schools. They have a hunger for knowledge about our past, and many of them are now coming into contact with families who may recently have lost a loved in in conflict, or seen a relative return home bearing injuries. Remembrance Sunday is no longer just about the Great War of 1914 -18 and the Second World War, it has transcended those two dreadful conflagrations and strengthened its meaning to new generations of participants, which I hope you may discover through some of the pictures showing above.
In a week which has seen a departure from the normal political unity at this time of year, we learn that some 2000 British army personnel will remain in Afghanistan for up to 20 years training commanders of the Afghan National Army to British standards, whilst at the same time our government intends to carry on paring back the numbers of personnel who we depend upon to defend our interests. The spat between Conservatives and Labour sadly sounds a sour note when our attention ought to be firmly focussed on the welfare of armed service personnel when they are returned to civilian life, or are returned to the UK seriously injured, it is often heard that as a nation we do not treat our veterans as well as we might.
Also sadly noted, once again, was the almost total lack of opposition councillors within the civic party at Westoe, although one was seen popping into the corner shop before the parade arrived. Has Remembrance Sunday suddenly become party political or what? I know that at least one Conservative councillor was on duty today, but really……… where were the South Shields non Labour councillors as the rest of the community did its duty?
On a lighter note, you will see some leather clad lads and lasses in the pictures, your first thoughts may be that they are troublesome, or the celebrity chefs “Hairy Bikers” , in fact they are members of the Badlander’s Motorcycle Club who regularly meet in South Shields. Many of them are also members of the Royal British Legion Riders Section and they have, jointly with local Hells Angels, raised thousands of pounds in recent years for charities such as “Help the Heroes”. Don’t be afraid to approach them at next year’s event or at their Armed Forces charity fund raiser at the Bents Park, they are a cheerful friendly bunch and a great laugh!
You cannot judge a book by its cover!