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United by our sense of loss
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THEY bowed their heads in silent respect.
The sun glinted off veterans’ medals as thousands gathered to solemnly remember the sacrifice of Britain’s war dead.
Thousands of people lined Oxfordshire’s streets for Remembrance Day services yesterday.
Since last year, repatriations of fallen service personnel have taken place in the county, from RAF Brize Norton to John Radcliffe Hospital. In St Giles, Oxford, city rector Bob Wilkes said: “We are proud of them and their families and grateful to those who gather faithfully every time to show respect.”
Lord Mayor of Oxford Alan Armitage hailed 67 years of peace in Europe and the award this year of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. He said: “The peace prize has been awarded in part to all of us in the UK as proud members of the European Union.
“We work together because we belong together and share so many values.”
Prayers were said from representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities and those gathered sang hymns including Abide With Me and The Lord’s My Shepherd.
The Last Post and silence followed a reading of The Exhortation by Oxford Royal British Legion president Donald Sammons, including the line: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.”
Following the laying of wreaths and a helicopter flypast, groups including the Territorial Army and the Army Cadets marched down St Giles to applause.
Among the Second World War veterans was Banbury’s Bert Dowler, 88, who set up the Oxford branch of The Royal Tank Regiment Association.
He said: “It is a great honour. There is much more support now.”
Blackbird Leys’ Keith Templar, 74, who served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry from 1957 to 1960, said: “I feel strongly about the Army and the forces. I always look to remember, it is a show of respect.”
Former Royal Navy commander Colin Sharp, 63, of Iffley, said: “It is right and fitting that we should come and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in service of their country.”
Another flypast was held at the city’s Kassam Stadium ahead of London Welsh’s 4pm clash with Exeter Chiefs. More than 100 RAF Benson personnel were given VIP treatment and members of the base rugby club formed a guard of honour as players made their way on to the pitch.
Other events were held at Abingdon, Bicester, Didcot, Banbury and Wantage, where an inauguration ceremony was held for a new war memorial at SS Peter and Paul church. Historian Julie Summers addressed the service at the Commonwealth War Graves Section of Botley Cemetery, the only cemetery of its kind in the county.
Among those at Wallingford’s ceremony was Dennis Niesigh, 87, who served with the Royal Navy in Burma from 1944 to 1945 and whose father was in the First World War.
He said: “It was a lovely service. It was wonderful to see all those people queueing around Market Square, it was so crowded.”
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