Veterans battle on at final VJ parade salute

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There was victory in Spalding at the weekend when veterans showed their true British resilience at what is feared might be the town’s final VJ Day parade.

Crowds that had gathered in the Peace Gardens at Ayscoughfee Hall on Sunday to honour them were shocked when one of the veterans collapsed, but he recovered and later battled on to drive himself home to Lincoln.

Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Toby Dennis inspects the standard bearers, with town centre manager Dennis Hannant. SG160815-148TW

Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Toby Dennis inspects the standard bearers, with town centre manager Dennis Hannant. SG160815-148TW

In spite of a slight adjustment to the programme where the guests of honour where due to leave through a Guard of Honour at the spot where the veteran lay with a paramedic, the 70th anniversary of VJ Day was marked just as the Spalding Remembrance Association had hoped it would be.

Eight standard bearers – three from the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, two from the Royal British Legion, one from the Normandy Veterans Association, one from the Royal Observer Corps, and one from the Burma Star Association – paraded before the crowd of veterans, onlookers and guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, Toby Dennis and his wife Sarah, and Coun Francis Biggadyke, chairman of South Holland District Council.

Frank Thompson, chairman of the Spalding Remembrance Association, said they had been especially privileged to have 95-year-old Bryan Robinson carrying the Burma Star standard, the day after he paraded before the Queen in London with hundreds of war veterans.

Mr Robinson, of Donington, said: “To hear the crowds cheer was amazing. I was in a wheelchair because I’ve just got new hips, but we paraded from Horse Guards Parade past the Cenotaph to Westminster Abbey, where we had tea in the gardens.

What we need is for some local cadets to come forward who we can train to take over. They are our only hope.

Ken Willows, chairman of the Royal Lincolnshire Regimental Association

“The Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Charles came to see us – Camilla was dancing with some of the veterans.

“It didn’t cost me a penny to go – we got free parking and travel and even the taxi drivers didn’t charge us. It was a very moving day and one I’ll never forget.

“I’m pleased to have made it to the VJ Day parade in Spalding and, because I’m the last Burma Star veteran standing here, they asked me to carry the standard.”

After the ceremony, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire said he was impressed to see so many families turn out to honour the veterans.

Veteran Bryan Robinson carries the Burma Star Association standard, pictured with Ken Willows of the Spalding Remembrance Association. SG160815-132TW

Veteran Bryan Robinson carries the Burma Star Association standard, pictured with Ken Willows of the Spalding Remembrance Association. SG160815-132TW

Mr Dennis said: “I know they say this is the last parade here, but I’ve heard that before – there’s no such thing as never again. I’ve been impressed by the families and especially the young people who came today to be part of this. It’s important that these parades carry on.”

Ken Willows, chairman of the Royal Lincolnshire Regimental Association who is a member of the Spalding Remembrance Association, said the only way the VJ Parade could continue is if local cadets came on board to take over.

Mr Willows said: “I wouldn’t like to see it end but we are all getting on a bit. We meet four or five times a year at Ayscoughfee Hall to organise this and some of the members find it difficult to get now. Organising the parade and getting there on the day to set everything up is hard work.

“What we need is some younger members to come forward – for several generations we haven’t had them because the Lincolnshire Regiment ceased to be in 1960 when it amalgamated with the East Anglian Regiment.

“What we need is for some local cadets to come forward who we can train to take over. They are our only hope.”

l More VJ Day pictures in Thursday’s Spalding Guardian.