Veterans on parade in Leeds to salute the heroes of the First World War

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They are songs that tell part of our national story, echoing down the decades with their typically British spirit of optimism and defiance.

Popular tunes such as It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and We’re Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line famously helped sustain the morale of British troops during various conflicts of the 20th century.

Military historian Neil Griffiths at the head of today's parade.

Military historian Neil Griffiths at the head of today's parade.

And today they filled the air once again as veterans gathered in Leeds to remember the heroes of the First World War ahead of next month’s centenary of the signing of the Armistice.

The West Yorkshire Police Band performed the old favourites in stirring style as they took their place in a parade through the city centre organised by the Royal British Legion.

Joining them on the parade – which set out from Victoria Gardens then made its way up The Headrow to Dortmund Square and back again – were members of Royal British Legion branches including Morley, Collingham and Castleford as well as young representatives of the air and sea cadets.

In a poignant touch, the march was led by Neil Griffiths, a military historian from Hull who was kitted out in a First World War uniform bearing shoulder titles of the kind his great-great uncle, Thomas Gillyon, would have had before he was killed at Ypres in 1916.

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One of the organisers of the event, Martyn Simpson, standard bearer for the Barwick and Scholes branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “The turnout of veterans was brilliant and having Neil there seemed to work particularly well.

“The end of the war was a time for celebration – church bells would have been ringing and people would have been out on the streets – and hopefully the band’s music reflected that.”

Those in attendance included the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Graham Latty, and Ed Anderson, the Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, who both laid wreaths at the war memorial in Victoria Gardens during a service before the parade.

In an address to the assembled veterans and the many members of the public who had turned out to watch, Coun Latty said: “It is an honour to be here today remembering those who served their country in the armed forces and those who faced hardship, loss and sacrifice here at home.”

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Prayers were led by the Rt Revd Paul Slater, the Bishop of Kirkstall, and a bugler sounded the Last Post and Reveille.

The oldest veteran present was 97-year-old Jim Bowe, from Hyde Park, while members of the younger generations paying their respects included 15-year-old Connor Ward, from the RAF’s Air Training Corps.

Connor, from Horsforth, said: “It’s really inspiring to hear stories of what happened and how people served our country.

“It’s great as well to see lots of members of the public here to watch the parade and show their appreciation.”

Yesterday’s proceedings were also organised to help commemorate the centenary of the founding of the RAF.

And, in a note of special local significance, the event was the last official engagement undertaken by 83-year-old David Marshall before he retires from his long-standing role as chairman of the Leeds group of the Royal British Legion.