Belfast Telegraph

Remembrance Sunday: Hundreds gather in Belfast to pay respects to fallen

Belfast

By Brett Campbell

Hundreds of people gathered at Belfast City Hall yesterday morning to remember the fallen heroes of the two World Wars.

Members of HMS Hibernia Royal Navy Reserve 2nd Battalion formed a guard of honour as the procession made its way to the Cenotaph, where soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment and 502 Ulster Squadron Royal Auxiliary Force stood to attention.

The Band of the Royal Irish Regiment played as dignitaries laid wreaths in the Garden of Remembrance before a solemn silence was held at 11am.

Among those taking part in the procession was Belfast veteran David Spence (69) who explained why Remembrance Day has added significance for him.

His father, Arthur Spence, was one of 542 servicemen killed on April 9, 1945 while unloading 500 pound bombs from the SS Charles Henderson at Bari, Italy.

"It's very emotional for me - I laid that wreath on behalf of the Royal Ulster Rifles, but I also did it for my father," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He served with the Royal Engineers and was one of hundreds who lost their lives that day - they were just blown apart."

David, who was a RUR soldier from 1960 to 1969 and served for nine months in the Borneo confrontation, has only visited his father's grave once, in 1990.

"My mother never got to see his grave at all, so today has a lot of meaning for me."

David was also paying tribute to two comrades who lost their lives in the three year bloody conflict which stemmed from Indonesia's opposition to the creation of Malaysia in the 1960s.

Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister, who also laid a wreath yesterday, said she believes it is important for everyone to commemorate Armistice Day.

"Personally, I think it's important to reflect on how the two Great Wars changed the world in its entirety and to think about the many people who signed up to fight not knowing what lay in front of them," she said.

The Alliance Party politician also said she believes it is important that people come together as a community to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"We are losing our veterans as each year passes, they fought for their country and they lost many of their friends - it's important that we give them that space to remember," she added.

President of Royal British Legion in Northern Ireland, Neil Salisbury, also acknowledged the declining numbers of those who served in both World Wars.

But he said he takes encouragement from "increasing numbers of young people" choosing to participate in the commemorative event.

"I am convinced that the poppy appeal is secure.

"If we are going to continue then young people must come forward and we are now tasked with ensuring that transition takes place," he said.

"I am not remembering the causes of the conflict, I am remembering the young person who went off doing what they thought was right for their country and who died for it.

"It is the individual who is important, the sacrifice they made and the appalling impact it had on their families."

Mr Salisbury dismissed debates about the poppy - which has routinely been the subject of controversy - and paid tribute to those who defended people's right to choose: "For me, and millions others like me, the symbol of remembrance is the red poppy which grew in such abundance in Flanders Field, where so many brave men lost their lives."

Belfast Telegraph

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