John remembers fallen comrades

John Hall, 91, from Grindon flew 60 missions  as a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.

John Hall, 91, from Grindon flew 60 missions as a rear gunner in Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.

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“THEY will never be forgotten.”

The words of decorated veteran John Hall who lost friends and comrades while fighting for his country during the Second World War.

Taking the salute outside the Museum and Winter Gardens.'Remembrance Day Parade, 2010

Taking the salute outside the Museum and Winter Gardens.'Remembrance Day Parade, 2010

The former Lancaster bomber has attended the city’s Remembrance Parade every year to pay respect to those who lost their lives.

The 91-year-old, who took part in 60 bombing missions across Europe, said: “Remembrance Day and the parade are very important days to me and many others. I lost too many good friends not to care.

“I lost two of my greatest friends during the Great Escape. In fact I lost quite a lot of friends there. There were many killed.

“It’s important that we carry on remembering for generations to come and I believe it can never be forgotten.”

In a bid to keep the sacrifices made by war heroes, Mr Hall, of Grindon, has been visiting Sunderland schools to recount his memories to pupils.

“I talk to them about my experiences during the Second World War and what my role was,” he said. “I think it’s terribly important that they learn about it all.”

Unfortunately, due to ill-health, the former Lancaster rear gunner, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by King George VI in 1943, will not be able to make this year’s Remembrance Parade but is urging others to attend.

“This will be the first year I can’t make it and it’s a great shame for me,” he said.

“It upsets me that I cannot go, but hope it will be well-attended, as it usually is.”

Mr Hall’s impressive record of 60 operations included being shot down twice over the Channel.

During the first time, along with his crew, he spent four days floating in a dinghy.

They were picked up off the Isles of Scilly, apparently only minutes away from drifting further out into the Atlantic Ocean where they could have been lost forever.

His commanding officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, later became famous for leading the legendary Dambusters raid in 1943.

As well as the annual Remembrance Parade on Sunday, Armistice Day on Friday is extra special for the city this year as the new Memorial Wall is officially dedicated.

At 11am on November 11, the special wall to commemorate the city’s fallen heroes killed in conflict or training since the Second World War will be dedicated.

Two days later, at the Remembrance Sunday Service, the families of some of the 18 servicemen whose names are inscribed on the granite plinths of the new memorial wall will place wreaths on the wall in their honour.

Brothers In Arms, made up of a group of Wearside families whose relatives have lost their lives fighting for their country, spent almost two years fund-raising to raise the cash to build the wall – the first of its kind in the country.

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HUNDREDS of members of the armed forces will descend on Sunderland to take part in one of the country’s biggest remembrance parades.

On Sunday, more than 200 serving members of the armed forces and 100 members of the emergency services are joining veterans for the annual Service of Remembrance.

The 10.30am parade will be attended by Mayor of Sunderland Coun Norma Wright and Air Vice-Marshall MG Lloyd.

This year’s parade music is provided by the Band of the RAF College and the Bear Park and Esh Colliery Band.

Members of Sunderland’s adopted regiment 4th Regiment Royal Artillery (the North East Gunners) will also attend with representatives from the 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, The Light Dragoons, 1st Battalion Coldsteam Guards, 1st Battalion Scots Guards and 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The annual Service of Remembrance and wreath laying culminates in a march past of veterans and serving members of Her Majesty’s Forces.

Those wishing to attend are advised to be in place at the Burdon Road War Memorial by 10.15am on Sunday.

RESPECTS will also be paid across Durham this week.

On Friday at 11am, Coun Dennis Morgan, chairman of Durham County Council, will attend a staff remembrance service at County Hall.

On Sunday, the chairman will attend the annual service at Durham Cathedral.