A special commemoration service organised by Sunderland College was held today to honour the men and women who have given their lives in combat.
Staff and students were joined by armed forces veterans and representatives of local organisations to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers as part of the college’s Remembrance Day memorial event.
Held at North East Land, Sea and Air Museum (NELSAM), the event marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and took place at the venue’s memorial to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force 607 squadron which was based at Usworth.
It was arranged by motor vehicle lecturer, John Davies, a former corporal in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and completed two tours of Afghanistan before retiring after 12 years of service.
John, who has witnessed first-hand the loss of comrades during his army service, said: “As a college it is vitally important to inform and educate the younger generation about the wars and conflicts our nation has been part of, and the ultimate sacrifice paid by hundreds of thousands of British servicemen and women who have died in the line of duty.
“By organising this event, particularly at this pertinent time when we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, we have brought together young and old to make sure our fallen soldiers are not forgotten.”
Students on motor vehicle, public services and access to higher education courses attended the event alongside college staff, including principal Anne Isherwood and those who previously served in the armed forces.
Sixteen-year-old Matthew Robinson, a motor vehicle student, said: “I think that it is really important that we remember the people who have died in all of the wars, as they made sure that we are free and can live our lives the way we want to. Without them going to war, we would not live in a country where we can all vote and can say if we don’t agree with something.”
The event featured talks from chairman of NELSAM, Dr Hugh Newell, who spoke about 607 squadron and the role they played in the Battle of Britain, and executive officer Alfie Hall, leader of 607 squadron, which reformed in January and is now based at RAF Leeming.
XO Hall said: “It is very poignant for us to gather here today, as it’s the 85th anniversary of the squadron first forming as well as the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It is excellent that people outside of the armed forces have organised this fitting tribute to remember the men and women from the local area who have lost their lives.”
Guests gathered for the service led by college chaplain Ros Jackson which involved readings from students and a performance by music student Emma Gillen, 18, a member of the Salvation Army band, who played The Last Post and Reveille to begin and end the two-minute silence at 11am.
Business student Jack Simm, 18, a NELSAM volunteer and First World War reenactor, who dressed in full military regalia, acted as standard bearer during the wreath laying ceremony, performed by Mrs Isherwood, carpentry and joinery lecturer Neil Hunter, an army reserve, Sunderland City Councillor John Kelly, and Dr Newell.
Cllr Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are an opportunity to pay tribute to those who fought in conflicts past and present for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
“Many of those who fought made the ultimate sacrifice and with services, such as this one at the museum, we can honour them. It’s important that we all remember those who have lost their lives and those that have given service for their country.
“This year is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and as RAF Usworth was very much in the front-line, there’s an extra significance to the commemorations and events here today.”