A ROUSING opening ceremony kicked off Armed Forces Day on Wearside – 100 years to the day since the outbreak of World War One.
Saturday’s event saw hundreds of people, including veterans and serving service personnel, turn up for festivities at Seaburn recreational ground.
The day, organised by Paul Jasper, who served 23 years in the Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets, started with a march along the seafront and into the ground, which featured stalls, family activities and fairground rides.
Specially invited guests included Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Sir Nigel Sherlock, Sunderland City councillors and Second World War veterans.
Opening the event, Sunderland Mayor Stuart Porthouse said: “It is 100 years to this very day that Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, which was the catalyst for the outbreak of the First World War.
“That war was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, but it didn’t. At the end of the First World War we were supposed to make a land fit for heroes, but we haven’t.
“It is nothing less than a national disgrace, that nearly 100 years later, we are still leaving some of our men and women to cope with the unimaginable mental, physical and social problems after their discharge from the armed forces.
“During my term in office I promise you that I will do everything in my power to support our armed forces community.”
Second World War veteran Ted Hold, 93, was the Mayor’s guest of honour alongside 91-year-old Jack Watson.
“It’s been tremendous,” said Mr Hold, who lives in Roker. “I’ve been part of the ceremony, which I never thought I would be.
“I was at the front of the march, it was absolutely brilliant. I want to thank the council, and the mayor and mayoress, for a wonderful day.”
Serving with the 6th Airborne Division, which spearheaded the D-Day invasion, Mr Hold landed in Normandy at 3.15am on the historic day 70 years ago.
“That was my first experience of war,” he told the Echo. “I spent three months in Normandy.”
The great-grandfather was married to late wife Georgina. He also served in the Ardennes, Holland, the Baltics, and Palestine, where he spent eight months before he was demobilised in 1946. “It couldn’t have been a better day,” he said.
Nigel Metcalf, regimental sergeant major at Durham Army Cadet Force, which had 75 cadets in the parade and 25 playing in the band, said: “We’ve had a great response today, it’s been fantastic.”
Former Sunderland Mayor Bob Heron, said: “The main importance is the camaraderie of all the armed forces from different regiments coming together as one and the really good thing of course is that they’ve brought their families. It’s been fantastic to see.” There were also Armed Forces Day celebrations at Seaham Town Park on Saturday.