A BAND of brothers who risked their lives for their country have been remembered with the creation of special standard.
Grandchildren and children of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA) gathered at Sunderland Minster to see the unveiling and dedication of a Memorial Standard.
Though now disbanded, the regiment, famed for its individuality, played an important role in WW1 and saw action in the battles which would define the conflict, including the Somme, Arras and Passchendaele.
Formed 100 years ago, it consisted of just under 800 men from Sunderland, Seaham, Whitburn and beyond from all walks of life. Though 766 volunteers enlisted in the new regiment, only 156 marched back into Sunderland for their Welcome Home parade in 1919.
The Standard was funded by Sunderland City Council’s East Area Committee after veterans groups approached them to create a reminder of the brigade, which can be flown amongst those of their comrades at the annual Remembrance Parade and other civic and military events.
Graham Hall, chairman of Sunderland Armed Forces Network and vice-chairman of Sunderland Veterans Forum, said: “This event shows that despite it being 100 years since 160th Wearside Brigade went to war, their family members and members of the armed forces are keeping the memory and ethos of that brigade alive.
“Hopefully this standard will go in the Museum and Winter Gardens for the public to view and it will be taken out at events.”
Dignitaries at the ceremony, which was officiated by the Reverend Dr Andrew Dowsett, included the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Stuart Porthouse, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Frank Major JP, the Mayor and Mayoress of South Shields, Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Gateshead and veterans, serving military personnel and relatives of those who served in the 160th Wearside Brigade.
The Memorial Standard was carried into the Minster flanked by standard bearers representing other regiments, and accompanied by members of the Army Cadets.
The ceremony was part of the First World War commemoration programme, and a celebration of the Brigade’s centenary which began with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque in March at the Brigade’s original headquarters, Houghton Hall, in March.
The 160th (Wearside) Brigade was formed after local people raised £17,798 (equivalent to more than £1 million) to fund it, and fought on the Western Front before merging at the end of the First World War with the 4th Field Regiment RA which became Sunderland’s adopted regiment.
The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Stuart Porthouse said: “It is fitting that a hundred years after the men of the 160th Wearside Brigade took their first salute from the then Mayor as they marched off to war, that I should now represent the people of our city to present a new standard in their honour.
“This Dedication and Memorial Service is another opportunity to remember the sacrifice made by our community in the First World War, and commemorate the founding of our ‘friends brigade’ who banded together to serve their country.
“The 160th Wearside Brigade was established by local people from Sunderland and our neighbouring towns and villages, and highlights their willingness and bravery to join the fight to preserve our way of life.”
He added: “ We can all be proud that this Standard bearing their name will be permanent reminder of their bravery to fly alongside those of their comrades. It is also another reminder of our city’s close links to the Armed Forces today through the Freedoms of Sunderland that are held by the crew of HMS Ocean, 4th Regiment Royal Artillery and 3 Rifles.”