Veterans’ group set to remember heroes of past and present with special memorial
12:00 29 June 2014
Of the friendships forged in life, none can perhaps be as powerful as those which originate in the arena of war.
Whether it is the soldiers who suffered the unimaginable horrors of trench warfare during the Great War, or the men who fought together on the beaches on D-Day, such comradeship in the face of death and destruction is not easily forgotten.
And nor have the experiences of Britain’s servicemen been forgotten by veterans’ groups, including one which is set to commemorate former soldiers from Ilford.
The Ilford 84 branch of the Parachute Regimental Association is erecting its own memorial to its members, and others, thanks to a grant of nearly £2,000 from the Veolia North Thames Trust.
Chairman Peter Brennan, 67, said: “My wife Irene’s father was a member of the Burma Star Association, for those who fought in the Burma campaign in the Second World War.
“She thinks the memorial in Coronation Gardens, Romford, is such a nice thing to have that it would be fitting for us to have our own memorial for our members and all the people who have served in airborne forces and the Parachute Regiment.”
The group’s memorial in Coronation Gardens will be a granite column set with a bronze plaque, or engraved with a message. It is due to be unveiled before Remembrance Day.
But the memorial is not the only cause for celebration as the group gets ready to mark its 30th anniversary later in the year.
Ilford 84, now a registered charity, was founded in October 1984 by a number of Second World War veterans who lived in the area and wanted to form their own branch.
The town was the ideal location as the Parachute Regimental Association did not want a new branch formed too close to existing groups in places such as Southend, Essex, and Kent.
Ilford 84, which gives veterans the chance to socialise with each other and reminisce, has been based at various sites, including Cranbrook Road, Ilford, in the past.
But it now calls the Royal Air Forces Association branch, in Carlton Road, Romford, home with group members meeting on the first Friday of every month.
Mr Brennan said: “We have members from Ilford, Dagenham, Hornchurch, Romford, Southend and even Kent.
“We have two Second World War veterans now –Jimmy Knox, 89, and John Duggan, 94 – and other veterans from Korea, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Parachute Regiment is still an operational thriving regiment and we still have the members coming through.
“People who join the branch are normally retired military people; it seems to be something they do when they leave the army. They look for that bond; that camaraderie.”
Mr Brennan joined Ilford 84 in 1988. He signed up to the Territorial Army (now the Army Reserve) in 1963 and served in units such as 562 Parachute Squadron and the 10th (City of London) Parachute Battalion, before leaving the army for good in 1990.
Although running Ilford 84 is an enjoyable experience, it has also been tinged with sadness by the deaths of long-time members.
Mr Brennan said: “It has been dreadful when we have lost members, such as our Second World War veterans, who you have known for about 25 years.
“They are all such good friends and when we are together age doesn’t come into it; you can see the twinkle in their eyes and they are real characters.
“We have lost some fantastic guys quite recently and it really hurts. These people are unique and there will never be the like of them again.”