Remembrance Day: Crowds gather at Ilford War Memorial to pay respects to fallen soldiers
- Credit: Archant
A soldier stands tall on a plinth with his bayonet held high, representing all the servicemen who went off to war 100 years ago - and didn’t return home.
This poignant statue forms the heart of the Ilford War Memorial, which was unveiled in 1922 to commemorate the 1,159 Ilford men who were killed during the First World War.
And today, Remembrance Sunday, it was the scene for a service paying tribute to all of the soldiers who have dedicated their lives to serving our country.
Crowds wearing their poppies proudly gathered around the memorial, in Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, joining local politicians, members of the Armed Forces, faith leaders and representatives of the Royal British Legion.
Noel O’Leary’s daughter Kirsten, 18, was one of the Army Cadets at the service.
The 59-year-old, from Ilford, who attended with his wife, said: “We came to support our daughter, but I also had a great-great uncle in the First World War who won the Victoria Cross.
“He was in the British Army and took out two machine gunners single-handedly in 1914.
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“I have come in his name.”
The service was led by Rev Jonathan Evens, from the Royal British Legion and the St John the Evangelist Church, in Newbury Park, and Rabbi Alex Chapper, the mayor’s chaplain and the chaplain for the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.
John Coombes, chairman of the Barkingside Royal British Legion, delivered the exhortation and wreaths were laid by figures including Cllr Ashley Kissin, the mayor of Redbridge, MPs Lee Scott and Mike Gapes and representatives of the Armed Forces and youth organisations.
John Barber, 67, from Seven Kings, was one of the veterans in attendance. He served with the Royal Navy Reserve for 20 years.
He said: “I did my duty and I am here to pay my respects.”
Michael Garrett, 67, from Barkingside, served as a radio operator for the Army in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Borneo and Aden, which was part of South Arabia then, but is now in Yemen.
He said: “I was attached to various outfits and unfortunately did see a bit of action.
“Aden I think was the worst. But I didn’t have too much too think about, I just tried to do the job.”
Cllr Linda Huggett, the deputy mayor, attended the service alongside Cllr Kissin.
She said: “We have had a wonderful day of commemoration and I think this was the biggest turnout that we have had.
“It was so good to see such a mix of people.”
For Mr Garrett, Remembrance Sunday is an occasion for him to remember those who did not make it home.
“I have lost a few friends. One in Aden was just about to go on holiday back home and was blown up.
“I’m still alive, but I shouldn’t be. I have lost some very dear friends.”