Homage to Yorkshire’s real heroes

The Red Arrows over Whitby Abbey
The Red Arrows over Whitby Abbey
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A GLITTERING pageant of military events will unfold all around Yorkshire today as thousands of people turn out to pay tribute to our fighting men and women.

The highlights include Scarborough hosting the Red Arrows for a stunning aerial display and one of the day’s most poignant events will see the presentation of the Armed Forces Day flag to 92-year-old Dunkirk veteran and ex-Green Howard George Wilson in the town.

In Yorkshire’s cities, towns, and seaside resorts, prayers will be said for troops and veterans. All are competing to offer the warmest welcome to the families of those who have served in the armed forces who will be given the red carpet treatment everywhere from Bradford to Scarborough.

Mr Wilson, who was born in Scarborough, joined the local TA 5th Battalion, Green Howards, in May 1939, and embarked for France in January 1940.

Within four months, Mr Wilson, aged 19, had joined the retreat to Dunkirk, struggling six miles across the dunes to the harbour with German shells firing over the troops. The officers drew lots to see which four would stay behind, with the men told only single men would be left.

Mr Wilson did not know if he would see England again but managed to scramble aboard one of the last boats before Dunkirk fell.

He also fought to the last round in the desert against Rommel before being captured. The Yorkshireman spent the rest of the war as prisoner of war before being liberated by the Russians in 1945.

His daughter Christine Stankiste said he does not see what he did as “anything special”.

“In his mind he was just doing his duty; what needed to be done,” she added. “He recounts his stories with humility, humour and modesty. It is an honour to have the chance to thank him and all the veterans for their brave actions during the nation’s fight for survival in World War Two.”

In Scarborough this year’s activities are themed on the RAF, with an air tattoo featuring the Red Arrows, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Typhoons and parachute displays.

As well as delighting the crowds in Scarborough at 2pm, the Arrows will fly over Filey and later head north to the skies above Whitby. The RAF Typhoon display will warm up the crowds an hour earlier. The Arrows will be followed by a flypast by a Battle of Britain Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster.

Elsewhere, residents are being invited to attend an Armed Forces Day drumhead service and concert in Centenary Square and City Park in Bradford.

Lord Mayor Khadim Hussain said: “It is really important that we honour the contribution and sacrifices that our veterans have made on behalf of the country and the district.

“It is also important that we recognise the contribution that those who currently serve in our armed forces make. I do hope that people will show their support by attending this service.”

In Hull, the 150 Yorkshire Transport Regiment’s Freedom Parade, with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying, will begin at 11.15am. Running alongside will be a full programme of music throughout the day on the bandstand and a display of military vehicles around the Rose Bowl area.

A Spitfire flypast also promises to wow visitors as the fighter plane takes to the skies over Queens Gardens at noon.

Transport Regiment CO Lt Col Tony Maddison said: “Living in such a friendly area makes all the difference and days such as Armed Forces Day are a celebration of that fact.

“It is humbling to see first-hand the support at the grass-roots level in this area and we are all deeply thankful for it.”

Councillor Steve Walker, lead member for armed forces and veterans, said: “Hull has a long and proud history with the armed forces and this is a fantastic opportunity for our city to show our support and thank our military personnel, past and present, for their bravery, dedication and enormous sacrifices they make for each and every one of us.”

In Leeds, a Freedom Parade by the Rifles Regiment was held last week, which was the city’s main event to mark Armed Forces Day.

However the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Tom Murray, will host a small civic event today for those who have served in the forces.

Coun Murray said: “I am proud of the role played by our servicemen and women.”