Hundreds pay respects to Sunderland soldiers killed during The Troubles in Northern Ireland to mark 50th anniversary of conflict

Hundreds of people gathered in Sunderland to pay their respects to city soldiers killed during Northern Ireland’s bloody Troubles to mark 50 years since the conflict began.

Saturday, 17th August 2019, 12:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th August 2019, 15:55 pm

Around 300 veterans, soldiers, relatives, dignitaries and members of the public gathered at the city’s war memorial, in Burdon Road, for a poignant ceremony.

Saturday morning’s event marked 50 years this month since British troops were first deployed on the province’s streets to deal with civil unrest as part of Operation Banner.

Six soldiers from Sunderland were among the 1,441 military personnel to lose their lives during the 38 years of the conflict.

Forces veterans with their banners at Saturday's Operation Banner service.

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Relatives of some of the fallen servicemen were among those to place wreaths on the war memorial.

They included Daren Robertson, 47, of Roker, Sunderland, whose father, Private Brian Robertson, 22, of the Royal Artillery, was the first of the six to die in June 1972 after a bomb explosion.

Mr Robertson junior, a builder, who was joined at the service by sister Michelle Robertson, 48, said: “I was only six months old when my dad died so I did not really know him although I am still so proud of him.

“I am really pleased to have been invited to place a wreath and would like to thank the organisers for what they have done.”

Veterans pay their respects.

Private Robertson’s name was read out during the service along with those of the other soldiers, Corporal Thomas Taylor, 26, killed in May 1973, Captain Robert Nairac, 28, murdered in May 1977, Private Ron Stafford, 20, who died in July 1979, Private Stephen Humble, 19, killed in August 1981, and Rifleman David Mulley, 20, who died in March 1986.

Additional wreaths were placed on the war memorial by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon, Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott and Tyne and Wear Deputy Lord Lieutenant Colonel Ann Clouston.

A two-minute silence was also held following the sounding of The Last Post by a bugler.

The event was organised by military support group Veterans In Crisis Sunderland (VICS), whose founder Ger Fowler served in Ulster during the late 1980s, and the Gunners Club, in Mary Street, Sunderland.

A piper at the commemorative service.

Gunners Club steward Alex Bonallie, an ex-Royal Marine, praised veterans groups and residents across the city and beyond for attending in such numbers.

He added: “Events like today are important so that we can learn from the past and ensure that history does not repeat itself in the future.

“It is our history and children today are not getting told about it. It is brushed under the carpet and we need to remember those who have lost their lives.”

VICS can be contacted on (07398) 916590 and holds weekly meetings at the Gunners Club from 10am-1pm on Tuesdays.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Coun David Snowdon, speaks at Saturday's war memorial service to mark 50 years since the start of Operation Banner.