St Albans veterans prepare to remember fallen comrades

PUBLISHED: 12:01 07 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 May 2010

The St Albans branch of Normandy veterans

The St Albans branch of Normandy veterans

REMEMBRANCE Day will be particularly poignant this year for members of an old soldiers association and the Deputy Mayor of St Albans. It will be the last time that the St Albans branch of the Normandy Veterans will attend as a formal group as they decided

REMEMBRANCE Day will be particularly poignant this year for members of an old soldiers association and the Deputy Mayor of St Albans.

It will be the last time that the St Albans branch of the Normandy Veterans will attend as a formal group as they decided to disband earlier this year.

And for the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Iqbal Zia, the horrors of war came home all too clearly last month when his nephew Asif was killed fighting against the forces of terrorism in his native Pakistan.

Asif, 29, Cllr Zia's brother's son and the youngest member of the family, was posted with the army to Waziristan in the North West Frontier Province which houses different elements of the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

He and three other comrades were hit in battle and although he was airlifted to hospital, he died on October 23.

The Deputy Mayor, who will be at Harpenden for its Remembrance Day service on Sunday, said: "It is a terrible blow for the whole family but when sacrifice is needed, you have to make a sacrifice for the sake of your country and human beings."

The local branch of the Normandy Veterans Association is to disband at the end of this year because there are no longer enough members nationwide for it to keep going.

It has been in existence for the past 24 years and the remaining members who are now in their eighties hope to continue as a small social group in the future.

This year is the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings and Ernie Brewer, chair of the St Albans branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, was recently presented with the Legion d'honneur which is the highest decoration in France.

Harry Hopkins, standard bearer of the St Albans branch of the Normandy Veterans, presented the association's standard to the Mayor, Cllr Chris Oxley, at full council in September and since then it has been displayed in the reception area.

Next Wednesday, November 11, it will be taken to the Remembrance Service at the Hatfield Park War Memorial as many of their comrades were taken to the Hatfield House Hospital. After that it will be given to the Museum of St Albans to display.

On Sunday, the Mayor and the Macebearer will gather outside BHS in St Peter's Street at 10.25am before leading councillors, aldermen and officers, representatives from different faiths, the parishes and veterans groups, a contingent from HMS St Albans and members of youth groups to the War Memorial.

Canon Kevin Walton will conduct the service which should last until around 11.20am. The Last Post will be sounded and the standards dipped at 11am and the firing of rifles by the 201 Herts and Beds Yeomanry will mark the two-minute silence.

Next Wednesday (11), a maroon will be fired on Bernards Heath to mark the beginning of the Armistice Day two-minute silence. The Deputy Mayor will be present at the War Memorial in St Peter's Street at 11am to join with any veterans and residents who wish to pay their respects.

In addition, a bell will ring in the reception of the Civic Offices to mark the start and end of the two-minute silence.

The Mayor said: "We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who gave and continue to give their lives fighting for the freedom of our country and for a civilised society.


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