Remembrance Sunday: War veterans salute comrades who gave lives
FOR more than 60 years, Second World War veteran John Sinclair has been honouring the sacrifice of his fallen comrades at Remembrance Sunday services.
As time has marched on, he has seen fewer and fewer of his fellow war veterans in attendance at the wreath-laying ceremonies.
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• INTERACTIVE MAP: Lest we forget the fallen from the North Staffordshire Regiment
But John, now aged 92 and in declining health, says he will continue to pay his respects every year, for as long as he can.
He was among hundreds of people who gathered around the cenotaph in Fenton yesterday for this year's service.
John, of The Limes Residential Home in Fenton, said: "I lost so many friends in the war. I get upset when I think about them, but I always remember them on Remembrance Sunday.
"I can see them all now, as if they were here today. It's terrible how many died, all because of one man's madness.
"I fought in North Africa, Italy and Sicily. When I was in North Africa, I got my leg blown up by a bomb, and I had to be sent back to England. But after six months, I went back to the war.
"It's sad that there aren't many veterans left now."
John's nephew, John Lees, said attending the service meant a lot to his uncle.
The 66-year-old, from Blurton, added: "He would never want to miss it. This is the first time he's been sitting in a wheelchair for the service – previously he's stood up for it in crutches."
Yesterday's services across the region came just two days after The Mercian Regiment announced it intended to change its official title to include the Staffords' name.
This will ensure the centuries-old link between the county and the Army will continue once 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Staffords) is disbanded in the forthcoming Army reorganisation.
Many of those who attended services across North Staffordshire supported The Sentinel's campaign to save the Staffords' name.
William Timmis served for 22 years in the Royal Corps of Transport, and remains a member of the Territorial Army.
The 56-year-old, from Bentilee, said: "I know the Army has to change and modernise itself, but they should keep traditions going, because they're important as well."
In Newcastle, the Remembrance Sunday parade through the town centre was led by the pipes and drums of the Black Watch Association.
Armed Forces veterans were joined by youngsters from the army and navy cadets and other youth organisations.
A service was held at St Giles's Church, before a wreath laying ceremony and act of remembrance at the war memorial in Red Lion Square.
The parade then made its way back the Civic Offices where Mayor David Becket took the salute from the balcony.
Jack Beckett has been a standard-bearer at the parade for 25 years, and this year he carried the flag of the Burma Star Association.
The 85-year-old, from Clayton, who served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, said: "I've been doing this for 25 years, but this one is going to be my retirement parade.
"The parade in Newcastle has always been well attended, but over the last five years there has been a resurgence in interest. I think it's because people are becoming more aware of the sacrifices being made by members of the Armed Forces."
Peter Batkin, aged 79, from Longton, carried the flag of the Normandy Veterans' Association in the Newcastle parade.
He said: "I was born shortly before the Second World War, and at the time I didn't fully understand it when my uncle, Sam Pointon, didn't come back from the war. He died at Arnhem.
"It was only later that I grew to understand his sacrifice, and so I think we need to help other people understand it too."
Flight Lieutenant Geraldine Gibson led 30 air cadets from Newcastle-based 435 Squadron in the parade.
She said: "It's very important that young people play a role in the Remembrance Sunday events.
"It gives them a chance to show their gratitude."
A remembrance service was also held at the Nicholson Memorial in Leek yesterday.
Elsewhere in the Moorlands, pupils from Dilhorne Primary School took part in their own remembrance event at their local war memorial on Friday.