Remembrance Sunday: Newham honours the fallen and praises the peacemakers

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales watches as cadets march by

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales watches as cadets march by - Credit: Archant

Shots from a field gun, prayers and a brass band accompanied marchers and mourners as the borough paid tribute this morning to those who gave their lives for Britain.

The East Ham Air Cadets

The East Ham Air Cadets - Credit: Archant

Air, sea and army cadets led a procession from Newham Town Hall to Central Park along East Ham’s High Street South at 10.30am, with families and dignitaries walking by their side.

Rev Fred Ashford-Okai, chaplain to the East Ham and District branch of the Royal British Legion, then led a service at the park’s cenotaph.

“Newham joins our country, the Commonwealth and the free world to celebrate today our Remembrance Sunday,” he said.

Stressing that the gathering was not to celebrate war itself – which he said represents the “ugly side of our human experience” – Rev Ashford-Okai praised those who fight for peace.

Deputy Lieutenant John Barber

Deputy Lieutenant John Barber - Credit: Archant

“We believe in the positive side and the beautiful side of our nature,” he said.

A two-minute’s silence was observed at 11am, begun and ended by thunderous shots from an artillery gun.

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Mayor Sir Robin Wales, who laid a wreath at the cenotaph to honour the dead, said the service was “really impressive”.

“It gets much bigger every year,” he said. “And the kids’ organisations keep growing rapidly.”

Cadets prepare to march to Central Park in East Ham

Cadets prepare to march to Central Park in East Ham - Credit: Archant

Though Sir Robin was not remembering anyone from within his own family, he thanked the men and women who often undergo “harrowing” experiences for their country.

“The courage they show doing things we ask them to is something else,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here.”

Deputy Lieutenant of Newham John Barber, meanwhile, said it was crucial to remember the fallen.

“So many give up their lives,” the Queen’s representative in the borough said. “Life becomes cheap if you don’t remember the people who have died.”

He added: “Now we don’t blink when 300 people are killed by a bomb – it might be something to do with Isil [also known as Islamic State], but it’s still a war.”

Cadets from the Royal Air Force 282 East Ham Squadron – whose band were at the very front of the procession from Newham Town Hall – were just one organisation representing the borough’s young.

Flt Lt Chris Booty, who led the cadets, said their enthusiasm was “on show for anyone to see”.

“It’s important the young people are involved because they are going to have to continue the tradition in the future,” he said.

“They have to make sure the likes of the First World War never happen again.”