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Big turnout for memorial service

PUBLISHED: 09:44 13 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 03 July 2010

THE biggest turnout in years gathered around Great Yarmouth's war memorial on Remembrance Sunday to pay tribute to the lives lost during conflict.

On a sunny morning, in which a cold wind whipped through St George's Park, tributes were paid and sombre words spoken of the sacrifices made, and of the need never to forget.

THE biggest turnout in years gathered around Great Yarmouth's war memorial on Remembrance Sunday to pay tribute to the lives lost during conflict.

On a sunny morning, in which a cold wind whipped through St George's Park, tributes were paid and sombre words spoken of the sacrifices made, and of the need never to forget.

The day started with a procession of organisations and youth groups marching from the Market Place.

Flanked by poppy-wearing wellwishers and led by standard bearers, they marched to a sombre drumbeat and the muffled sound of church bells into the park, where, at the foot of the cenotaph, eulogies were read, speeches made, and wreaths laid.

One of those at the service was Paul Allcock, a 39-year-old father of two from Gorleston and motorcycle instructor. He left the army eight years ago as a sergeant having served in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.

He said: “I've been here every year since I left the Army. It's always a superb service and organised so well and this year the turnout has really increased. That's been happening every year here and the age group is now really varied, there are a lot more young people present and I think some of it is in part because of what's going on at the moment.”

Mr Allcock added: “I think these services are always important, for the younger ones among us. There is always that danger of forgetting and if they didn't know about what has gone on then the same mistakes could happen all over again.”

One of the youngsters present was 16-year-old Matthew Rawlings from Newtown, Yarmouth. Paying his respects with his father Kevin, who served in the army for 22 years, Matthew is currently studying at East Norfolk Sixth Form College.

He said: “It's the first time I've come here and I'm going to come from now on. I've seen a few people of my age who I know here and as I've grown up I've realised it's the right thing to do. I think it's good to show respect for all the people that have done things that I wouldn't have the guts to do myself. It's important to show you are aware of those who selflessly died for us - it's the least I can do.”

After the two minutes' silence, broken only by the distant hum of car engines, the Rev Irene Knowles spoke of wars both in Britain's past and present. She reflected on the fact that everyone attending no matter what their beliefs regarding conflict, was united by a “hard won freedom” that should not be taken for granted.

Like many present, mother-of-four Donna Darton of Horsey, 43, had a personal connection to the service - her son is due to be sent out to Afghanistan on his 18th birthday in February.

She said: “The war was something that never touched me but now I hear everything that is going on and I have a vested interest. I have come here plenty of times before, but it is really in my heart now.

“I thought the reverend's speech was very powerful. Deep down we know that behind what's happened are issues of freedom and justice. If those people hadn't died we wouldn't have the choices today that we have, and she really addressed that.”

After the service Mayor Tony Smith and Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Butler took the salute in the march past outside the former site of Woolworths.

One of those who placed a wreath on the cenotaph was Yarmouth resident Norman Fellgett, 74, who as a four year old was evacuated from the town to Norwich because of the heavy bombing. Having placed a wreath at the foot of the cenotaph for the RAF Association for which he had served, he reflected: “Everything was done well and it was an honour to place the wreath. I can still remember seeing the flames of an aircraft factory bombed near the house I was staying in so it's marvellous to see youngsters go in uniform and pay their respects. It has always been the same in Yarmouth- the town is a great supporter of these events because of how it suffered in the war.”

WHEN speaking of his older twin brothers, grandfather of seven Edward Hanton's voice is tinged with sadness.

The 77-year-old from Bradwell explained: “They both left to fight when I was seven. They kissed my mother goodbye, one with tears in his eyes, and that was the last I saw of them.

“Ernest was killed on landing in Singapore and William was taken as a prisoner of war in 1942 until 1945 when he was put on a boat to Japan that was torpedoed and also killed. It was just before the war ended.”

Now Edward pays his respects to his brothers every year at Far East Prisoners of War Memorial on Yarmouth's seafront.

Held in honour of those kept captive by Japanese forces during the second world war, the FEPOW service was well attended.

Under blue skies, Broadland Brass band provided a sombre soundtrack to a dignified ceremony.

Bert Major, secretary of the FEPOW fellowship, opened proceedings, talking about those lost and commenting on the fact that now only eight former prisoners of war and 35 widows from the Yarmouth area remained.

Then lay chaplain to the children and families of those who had been interned, Mrs Pauline Simpson, spoke of the role of forgiveness and the need to reflect upon events such as those over 60 years ago, and after the silence, wreaths were laid around the clock.

John Simpson, 58, was at the ceremony with his brother in remembrance of their father, who while in captivity, had been forced to work on the bridge over the river Kwai. The accountant from Bradwell said: “I come here because I think that those in the Far East are often the forgotten few. They were still fighting well after Armistice Day and what they went through was more than most.

“My father was captured at the fall of Hong Kong and eventually released in Saigon but he never spoke, never used to like talking about it. It's only when I talk to some of the veterans that I learn what they went through.”

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