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We shall never forget: Island honours its role in defending the realm

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A gun salute boomed at 11am as the Island's war veterans stood at attention for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Yesterday's salute signified two minutes' silence in recognition of Bermuda's men and women who served in the First and Second World Wars.

The stillness before the Cenotaph on the grounds on the Cabinet Office was broken by a single bugle call — at which the veterans and their families, along with members of the Bermuda Regiment and various political dignitaries, saluted the monument in honour of the war dead.

Yesterday's ceremony and the attendant parade crowded Front Street with a poppy-wearing throng as the Bermuda Regiment Band and wreath-bearing soldiers arrived and took up their positions at 10.30am, and Governor George Fergusson arrived for the veterans' inspection.

The first wreaths were laid at the monument's base by Mr Fergusson, Premier Craig Cannonier, Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge, and Leader of the Opposition Marc Bean.

To applause, veterans and their families also gathered at the War Veterans' Memorial nearby, where visiting veteran Don Flatman from the UK recalled serving in a special unit of the British Army during the Allied reconquest of Nazi-occupied France.

Looking back on their triumphant arrival in Brussels back in 1945, Mr Flatman, 92, remembered being invited to a celebratory meal with other soldiers.

“We lit cigars and said we were all Winston Churchills now,” the Lance Corporal said as the ceremony concluded, and veterans headed across Front Street for their luncheon.

Few remain of the original veterans and their next of kin, but they continue to march.

Lillian Levon, who at 96 is believed to be the oldest of Bermuda's war veterans, told The Royal Gazette: “My husband should be here to help me.”

Her husband, Joseph William Levon, served in the First World War with the Bermuda Contingent of the Garrison Artillery, and in the Second World War with the Bermuda Militia Artillery.

Donald Jolliffee, who served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War and the Korean War, wore his brother's tie to the occasion.

“I lost a lot of friends in the war,” he said. “My brother was in the Welsh Guards — he died in the Falklands.”

Carol Everson of the Bermuda Legion reported an “excellent” poppy for this year's poppy appeal, with more than 10,000 of the memorial flowers distributed.

Keen to keep the significance of Bermuda's veterans alive for the next generations, Ms Everson said the Legion had been able to deliver 11 talks at schools across the Island.

“With the help of this year's Miss Bermuda, Katherine Arnfield, we feel we're bringing the youth into remembrance as well,” Ms Everson added.

Others later spoke of their reflections on the day. Bermuda Regiment's Pte Freddie Swan, who was picked to hand the Governor a wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph, said: “I wasn't nervous — I was actually excited. I feel it's important the Regiment is here for occasions like this. It's nice to be part of history and I appreciate being a part of it.”

Pte Dante Durham, who handed his wreath to Premier Craig Cannonier, added: “I've done this kind of thing before, so I was pretty cool.

“It's important for everybody to be here, not just the Regiment. It lets everybody know Remembrance Day is being remembered properly.

“It's also important for serving soldiers to be out in force — it makes me feel good to hear people applauding and cheering and it's great to see veterans on parade.”

Bermuda veteran Isobell DeSilva, 88, from Pembroke, volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War and served in Ontario between 1942-45.

She said: “I thought it was lovely — I cheered for everyone who went past me, especially the Regiment Band — they did an excellent job.”

Second World War Bermuda Militia Infantry (BMI) veteran Canon Thomas Nisbett, who served between 1945-46, added: “The parade was beautiful. Everything went so nicely. The Regiment is a worthy successor to the BMI.”

Regiment CO Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown, speaking at a special lunch to honour veterans at Number 6 Shed on Front Street, said: “It was a beautiful and moving ceremony.

“Our soldiers did a splendid job and looked magnificent in their uniforms and it again demonstrates how well they function in the state ceremonial role.

“I was extremely proud of everyone on parade and of how they conducted themselves.

“One soldier came up to me and said this was the only parade he didn't mind doing — all parades are important, but this one is special for soldiers.”

Colour Sergeant Chauncey Durham, Pte Durham's father, added: “As soldiers we need to know where we came from to know where we are going.

“Hopefully, none of us will be on that parade as war veterans — but if we ever are, we need to know why we are there.”

Photo by Akil Simmons Proud veterans march on Front Street during the Remembrance Day Parade today. Bermuda honoured its war veterans and its role in the First and Second World Wars and other conflicts.
Governor George Fergusson places a wreath on the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Day Parade yesterday. Photo by Akil Simmons
Bermuda Regiment Band march along Front Street during the Remembrance Day Parade yesterday. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Governor George Fergusson salutes the War Veterans Monument after placing his wreath during the Remembrance Day parade. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Premier Craig Cannonier and Opposition Marc Bean during the Remembrance Day parade yesterday. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
A young spectator watches the Parade. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published November 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm (Updated November 11, 2013 at 7:03 pm)

We shall never forget: Island honours its role in defending the realm

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