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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

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Copeland's salute to armed services

WHITEHAVEN’S Freedom Parade brought young and old together this week to remember those who died in World War One.

Crowds watched as a host of servicemen and women, veterans and cadets who marched through the town’s street to mark the historic event.

The parade was part of the town’s World War One Week, marking the war’s centenary.

Guest of honour was Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest military award for bravery in the British Armed Forces – for twice saving his comrades from ambushes in Iraq in 2004.

The parade started at the harbourside, going to Duke Street, Scotch Street, Lowther Street, King Street and to the hub for air displays and speeches.

Marchers included the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, the ceremonial unit of the Royal Navy and the RAF. Following them were numerous veterans and tri-service cadets.

The parade ended at Whitehaven harbour, where speeches were made by dignitaries.

Mayor of Copeland GEOFF GARRITY said: “The Army, Navy, RAF, the veterans and the cadets – you have all done us proud today. I for one would not like to have seen this anniversary forgotten or allowed to pass quietly. We owe it to the memory of the brave millions who fought that war and other conflicts since.

“It is also our chance to say – to the military men and women here today, and to all those they represent - thank you, we recognise your bravery and we salute you.”

CLAIRE HENSMAN, the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, expressed her gratitude to our country’s servicemen and women, both past and present.

She told The Whitehaven News: “I’m so pleased the school children have enjoyed it and have learned something.

“This parade shows just how great our armed forces are.”

The Freedom of the Borough scroll was also passed from the Royal Navy to the RAF, which CHRIS HAMILTON, officer commanding engineering squadron for RAF Spadeadam, said was a “great honour for the station”.

“I think it’s great for the community to come together like this. If we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat it.”

Sgt JOHN CAVANAGH, of the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said events like this are a good way for schoolchildren to learn about the past.

Speaking about the cadets’ involvement in the parade, Major LINDA JOHNSTON, company commander of the Chindit Company, said: “They have all been exceptional. A lot of them are sitting exams. It was good of them to come to the parade.

“Irrespective of what cadet force the cadets are part of, it gives them good teamwork and leadership skills which are vital for places of work.”

Town crier ROB ROMANO told school children en-route at the parade about Whitehaven’s Victoria Cross award holder Abraham Acton and gave out copies of a letter from a Whitehaven man who served in World War One.

GERARD RICHARDSON, of event organisers Whitehaven Festival Company, said: “As a town, it’s important to remember World War One.

“We have such a close relationship with the armed forces and it’s important to continue that. The parade really is a highlight of the week.”

He thanked everyone for their support – from the public, Cumbria Police, Copeland Council and sponsors Nuclear Management Partners.

“Today wouldn’t have happened without NMP’s unwavering support.

“We’ve had some great days in West Cumbria since the Festival Company was founded in 1998 but today was the best by a long way.

“I’ve never been prouder to be from Whtehaven.”

Following the parade, there were lots of whoops and cheers as spectators enjoyed displays from formation aerobatic team, RV8tors, the Red Devils and a show from display pilot Gerald Cooper.

The event also featured displays from the army and a Royal Navy patrol craft.

Sgt BAZ LOFTUS, a pilot from the Red Devils, said: “We hope that our display shows everyone some of the importance of the armed forces.

“Everyone here has come together in Whitehaven to remember all those who fought in World War One and it’s great to be apart of that.

“It’s really important the children learn about what happened because otherwise it becomes ancient history and it should never be forgotten.”

JOHN CHAPPELL, from NMP and a former member of the RAF, said: “It’s great to meet Johnson Beharry who I didn’t see much in Iraq but I was supporting from the air.

“World War One began 100 years ago and was one of the worst wars in British history and it should always be remembered.

“The forces fight for our rights and it’s great to celebrate them.”

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