Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Celebration of Freedom

Photographs (Top to Bottom):

1. Inspection of the Queen's Band of the Royal Marines
(By the Mayor of Copeland, Mr John Jackson
& the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Sir James Cropper)

2. Armed Forces escorting the 'Freedom Charter'

3. WW2 and other Veterans in the 'Veterans Parade'
Escorting the Freedom Charter',
Whitehaven, Sunday 19 June 2011

4. 'Freedom of the Borough of Copeland Charter'
(Granted to past & present members of the Armed Forces)

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) The promise of freedom

Tuesday, 3 June 1940:
The Dunkirk Beaches, France

Long ago on a beach near Dunkirk, with their backs to the sea and holding back the advancing German army about to take over most of Western Europe, some of soldiers in the 1940 BEF made a promise to themselves. The promise they made was in two parts. Firstly, despite everything and the urgency of their present situation Britain would remain free. No invader was going to take their land. Secondly, one day they would be back to set the rest of Europe free.

Among the last troops to get off the Dunkirk beaches in early June 1940 were soldiers of the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment, almost exclusively made up of West Cumbrians. They had been among the number charged with holding the defensive perimeter for as long as possible so that as many as possible could escape across the Channel. The reason for highlighting the men of the 5th Border (T.A.) will become evident by the end of this article.

As history will show, this promise made at a desperate moment was not an idle one. Britain did repel the invader and, with the help of men and women from other lands, Western Europe - and indeed the wider world - was set free from Nazi Occupation. V.E. Day was announced in Europe on 8 May 1945 and V.J. Day in the Far East on 15 August the same year. On the whole many of those who helped set Europe and much of the wider world free of tyrannical rule went away raising families, cherishing the freedom they had saved for those who were to follow.

More than one generation has grown up since the dark days of May and June 1940 and the rather more joyous days of May and August 1945. In the intervening years it is true that there have been challenges to peace and the freedom that was gained at a great cost. One thinks of the Korean conflict or Indo-China in the 1950s, of the Falklands conflict of the 1980s or the first Gulf War of the late 1990s. But, on the whole the post-war generations, at least in much of the Western world, have lived through a period of relative peace and freedom compared to previous times.

Where is the gratitude of these post-war generations? Are they indeed grateful at all to those who gave so much to enable them to have this relative freedom and live peaceful lives? Once again, on the whole, arguably the answer to these questions is "Yes!" Indeed, in the modern era many more of the post-war generations recognise the debt they owe to their forebears who stood up to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis allowing them to have this precious and often elusive thing called freedom. But how can this gratitude be shown?

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(2) How to show a heart-felt gratitude?

Almost immediately after WW2 several communities of the former Occupied countries of Western Europe showed their gratitude towards those from over the Channel who had helped liberate them. For example, the care and maintenance of the graves of those who gave their lives in the liberation of Europe is well noted as a matter of honour for communities in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other lands. Many young lives were lost during the war, and not just civilians or soldiers and airmen from the Allied countries.

The gratitude of liberation in the former Occupied counties also extends to the care of the graves of the many young lives lost from the lands of the former Axis powers. While not forgetting what had happened, the world was beginning to move forward to a better and more peaceful time.

Some communities in continental Europe named public buildings, streets or public parks after those who had helped liberate them. On the anniversary dates of key events, many places have welcomed back former wartime veterans, their families and friends as long-lost friends with whom one has a deep, unbreakable bond.

Yet, in Britain which had not had to suffer Occupation, while they were grateful that the former wartime veterans had were not feted or recognised anywhere near the level they were in continental Europe. For many years, in Britain the anniversaries of events such as the Dunkirk evacuation, the Normandy Landings or V.E. Day tended to be remembered by associations of former veterans and friends. Perhaps they were better able to understand the significance of these anniversaries.

Gradually, however the situation has changed. One can point to the marking of the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day (1995) by a Bank Holiday in Britain. Particularly since that time there has been an increasing interest of people wanting to mark the key anniversaries of the war or to learn first hand the stories of wartime veterans. For example, the major BBC "People's War" project involved people of all ages and from all over the world. Another example one can point to was the introduction of a 'Veteran's Badge' by the British Government for surviving veterans of the armed forces.

For some years, interested individuals have campaigned for surviving wartime veterans to be formally recognised and honoured by their own communities. This, of course, would have to be agreed by locally elected representatives. The West Cumbrian council area of Copeland Borough Council is one such local area that has formally recognised the surviving wartime veterans of the armed forces, existing members of the armed forces and the cadet forces. This was done in two stages in 2010 and 2011.

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(3) A march to celebrate freedom

Sunday 27 June 2010:
Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria, UK.

Taking into account the views of many of the former veterans of the Armed Forces, members of the Copeland Borough Council firstly granted the 'Freedom of the Borough' to the local Cadet Forces (Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Force Cadets). In a unique gathering of the full council in the open air at the Whitehaven Festival on Sunday morning, 27 June 2010 this 'freedom' to thank members of the Armed Forces was granted unanimously in front of a large crowd.

The 'Freedom' of the council was then also granted to serving members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces (i.e. Navy, Army and Air Force). Thirdly, but at least as importantly, the recognition of the 'Freedom' was granted to the former Armed Forces veterans of WW2 and later times. Thus, there was a link to recognise and celebrate future, present and past.

As thanks on behalf of all the Armed Forces for this 'Freedom', Commodore Richard Baum, R.N. (Regional Commander for the Royal Navy in the North of England) then commissioned a framed scroll from the Manx artist Colleen Corlett. This would be presented back to the council and the people in June 2011.

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Sunday 19 June 2011:
Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria, UK.

On the Sunday morning of the 2011 Whitehaven Festival members of the Armed Forces, Cadet Forces and wartime and other Armed Forces Veterans exercised their right as holders of the 'Freedom of the Borough of Copeland' to march through the streets. It was also an opportunity for ordinary citizens to give a heartfelt public 'thank you', particularly to the WW2 veterans.

Although the march was officially described both as a "Veterans' Parade" and a "Freedom Parade" it was agreed the veterans would be at the rear of the parade. This enabled the 'youngsters' to lead the way. The "Freedom Parade" was led by the Queen's Band of the Royal Marines and went from "TS Bee" (the Whitehaven Sea Cadets HQ) to the main arena of the Whitehaven Festival. On the main Festival stage was a host of civic dignitaries, such as Commodore Richard Baum RN, Reverend John Bannister (Rector of Whitehaven), Sir James Cropper (Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria), Mrs Iona Frost - Pennington (High Sheriff for Cumbria), Councillor John Jackson (Mayor of Copeland 2011 / 2012) and Councillor Elaine Woodburn (Leader of Copeland Borough Council).

The framed 'Freedom Charter' was carried by an Air Force officer flanked by members of the 4th Battalion (TA) Duke of Lancaster's Regiment: successors to the 5th Battalion (T.A) Border Regiment. There was also a Colour Party from the Royal Navy, and representatives of other branches of HM Armed Forces. Members of the Armed Forces were subsequently inspected by the civic dignitaries referred to above.

Commodore Richard Baum also took this opportunity to formally hand over the framed 'Freedom Charter' to Copeland Council so that the people of the district would be able to see it and better understand what it represented.

This is what Commodore Baum said:

"Standing here on this stage I feel like I should be singing or dancing! However, you will be pleased to know that I will not be doing either of these. I will also be brief.

The Freedom of the Borough was accepted with thanks one year ago. It means we can march through the streets of Copeland with bayonets fixed, flags flying and drums beating. However, I do not believe this Charter should be hidden away in a dusty corner somewhere, but should be on public view so that it can be seen."

The framed certificate was then handed over to the Mayor, Councillor Jackson who gave his thanks to the past, present and future members of the Armed Forces in this way:

"I would like to thank the Armed Forces for everything they do and in protecting our country. On behalf of Copeland Council and the citizens of Copeland, we welcome you to the Borough with open arms.

The Freedom of the Borough was presented one year ago and we continue this reflection and remembrance today. The scroll will not be hidden away far from view in a dusty room but will hang on permanent display in The Beacon Museum."

[NB: The framed scroll was later taken to the Beacon Museum, which is at West Strand, Whitehaven beside the harbour. It was then placed on display on the 4th Floor Gallery].

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The parade then marched in front of the stage to take the salute. At the rear of the parade were two former WW2 veterans who had served with the 5th Battalion (TA) Border Regiment contingent of the 1940 BEF: Private John Slater of Frizington and Private John Lowrey of Whitehaven. Walking at the rear of the party reflected the fact they were perhaps not quite as quick and agile as they had to be while dodging the bullets on beach at Dunkirk in June 1940.

Recognising the effort they made to march on this day, the 'rear party' received what must have been the loudest and longest applause of the day! The efforts of the wartime generation, and of those in the intervening years, means that people have the freedom to march and walk through the streets.

People from many lands were in the large crowd that witnessed this key event of the 3-day 'Whitehaven Festival'. Immediately after the parade those who had taken part in the march, and the assembled crowd of well-wishers the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 'Spitfire' and Hurricane passed overhead in a further tribute. Afterwards, there was a celebration of the music of Glenn Miller and the 'big band' sound by the RAF Squadronaires.

With events like these, the post-war generations can show their gratitude. These are happier scenes to reflect upon to offset the darker memories of the war years. Long may it be so!

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(4) The Copeland Borough Council 'Freedom Charter'

The wording on the framed 'Freedom Charter' is as follows:

"In pursuance of a unanimous resolution of the Council of the Borough of Copeland at a special meeting held on

Sunday the 27th June 2010
the Mayor and Councillors of the
confer upon
to the Borough of Copeland

with the privilege, honour and distinction
of marching through the streets of Copeland with
bayonets fixed, drums beating and bands playing.

In witness thereof
the common seal of
the Borough of Copeland
is attached hereto".

(on behalf of Copeland Borough Council):

John Jackson (Mayor, 2011 / 2012)
Elaine Woodburn (Council Leader)
Paul Walker (Chief Executive)

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(5) The widespread public gratitude shown to the WW2 veterans

The following thanks were received to pass on to the WW2 and other Armed Forces veterans; es

(a) From Mr Rob Romano on behalf of Whitehaven Festival Company:

"It's always a pleasure to help out on these occasions - and this was no exception - but without the participation of all those who turned out and provided the opportunity for Joe Public to show their appreciation of our Military Services, present and past and their apprentices - the Cadets - where would we be?? And then - without the WW2 Veterans - would we be here anyway??

It's great to get such support from past members of Her Majesties Services on these occasions - so our thanks are reciprocated to all. It's also great that this type of support is returned by the current generation of serving members. Long may it be so."

(b) From Tony Wyld, SO1C Naval Liaison Officer (Northern England)
[On behalf of the present day Armed Forces]:

"Many thanks to you and your colleagues, for their most effective contribution on Sunday.

It is really good to hear that the Veterans enjoyed themselves. I think that far too often the Veterans are perceived as body of elderly enthusiast, rather than courageous individuals who managed to survive through the darkest excesses in this planet's history, by standing up and defending / fighting for the future generations.

Your participation in the parade was most welcome and appreciated by all the serving personnel present, which was endorsed by the spontaneous applause given by the members of the public, as you marched past.

It was a pleasure for you to join us."

Friday, 24 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(6) Some personal comments

Unfortunately some of the Armed Forces Veterans who wished to take part in the march but due to age or infirmity were unable to do so. However, the Festival organisers made a special seated area available so that some of the WW2 veterans were able to see this event that was so special to them, and clap and cheer those who were on parade.

For the WW2 veterans still unable to attend the parade the Mayor invited them to visit him in the Mayor's parlour a few days later (which coincided with the Armed Forces National Day, Saturday 25 June 2011). There has been a really big effort in these parts to show the WW2 veterans the gratitude of the efforts they and their comrades made so long ago. These are the days that should be remembered long into the future.

Personally, having been brought up from a young age listening and dancing to the music of dance orchestras such as Glenn Miller, Victor Silvester, Joe Loss and others I could have listened all day to the RAF Squadronaires! They really brought the music alive, bringing back many happy memories for some and possibly introducing the music of Glenn Miller to some of the teenagers for the first time.

While Major Glenn Miller, USAAF was himself a casualty of WW2 - posted "missing in action" - his style of music still lives on. We should never forget the tragedy of what happened in the war. But, let us also celebrate the legacy that came out of those dark times.

Friday, 24 June, 2011  

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