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Sunderland launches online memorial book to remember city’s forces heroes

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FAMILIES in Wearside have a unique way of remembering loved ones who were in the armed forces.

Sunderland City Council has launched a memorial book website, where families can record the military service of their relatives.

The online book, the first of its kind in the country, was created after people told the authority they had nowhere to remember servicemen and women who died after conflicts had ended.

Council IT experts created the website, which will be funded, updated and maintained by Sunderland Armed Forces Network.

Mayor of Sunderland, coun Stuart Porthouse, said it was the result of “years of hard work”, as he joined council leaders and network chairman, Graham Hall at the official launch, which tied in with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Families of war veterans gathered to see the online tribute, where they can submit photographs, letters and share memories of their loved ones.

Among them were relatives of Stan Redford, from South Hylton, who died in 2011, after fighting in Duban, Lahore and Burma. It was a letter from a friend of Mr Redford’s family that prompted the council into developing the service, which will also record the sacrifice of sailors in the Merchant Navy and the civilian-manned Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

His granddaughter, Tina Blenkiron, said: “It is easy to forget that so many of our great, great grandfathers and relatives served their country with such bravery and distinction in military action before they thankfully returned home safe to their friends and family.’’

Brothers James and John George McRoy, from Monkwearmouth, who died months apart in the First World War on the battlefields on Passendale, were remembered by nieces Muriel Smith, from Houghton and Patricia Baker, from Hastings Hill.

Helen Border, from Sunderland, was a promising young RAF cadet killed in a car crash on the way to shooting practice, shortly before her 18th birthday in June 1998. Mum Lynn and grandmother Vera Stevens said they were proud to see Helen remembered on the website, which also features Vera’s brother, Gordon Downs, of Ingleby Terrace in Barnes, a Royal Navy man who drowned in Sri Lanka shortly before the Second World War ended.

Lynn said: “It was her life and she intended to have a career in the RAF. She joined when she was 13 - she went to the first Sunderland Airshow and there was a stall there for the cadets.

“She sat in a plane and she thought it was marvellous. It was her passion.”

Sunderland Armed Forces Network’s Mr Hall, said: “Sometimes we fail to recognise the young people who wear the uniform and step forward and actually represent the country and I think it would have been very remiss of us if we left this young lady out.”

Families of anyone who was born or lived in Sunderland can complete an application form at www.sunderland.gov.uk/remembrance, which will be checked against public and armed forces records.

The memorial can be found at www.safn.org.uk/safnbook/.

 

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