Town stands together to remember its hundreds of heroes

Morpeth fell silent for two minutes from 11am on Armistice Day.
Morpeth fell silent for two minutes from 11am on Armistice Day.

Hundreds of Morpeth residents took the opportunity to remember the fallen at town services.

On Sunday, a parade of representatives from units and organisations marched to the cenotaph from the town centre for the traditional service.

It was led by Morpeth Pipe Band and Parade Marshall Michael Murphy made sure that everything ran smoothly.

As well as the Armed Forces, Air Training Corps and Army Cadet Force representatives and civic contingents, there were veterans, Freemen, Aldermen and past mayors, representatives from the Royal British Legion (RBL), community organisations such as the town’s Scouts and Boys Brigade groups, the emergency services and members of the clergy.

The welcome, introduction and prayers were conducted by the Rector of Morpeth, Rev Simon White, the singing of the national anthem was led by former King Edward VI School student Rebecca Megwa and Dave Hogg did the traditional readings on behalf of the RBL.

Those who laid wreaths at the cenotaph following the two-minute silence included Morpeth Mayor Alison Byard and Kathryn Tickell, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland.

The roads in the immediate area were closed to enable a large number of residents to watch the service.

Afterwards, the parade reformed and marched back to the Town Hall, where commanders called ‘eyes left’ for the Mayor to take the salute. Refreshments were then made available in the building for members of the public.

The guests of honour included a soldier from Morpeth who dragged a wounded comrade to safety as they came under enemy fire during an operation in Afghanistan.

Sgt Christopher Browne was Mentioned in Despatches for his efforts in the war zone in 2014.

Coun Byard said: “It’s a great honour to take part in the Morpeth Remembrance Sunday parade and service.

“The weather wasn’t great, but it could have been worse and there was still an excellent turnout by residents, which shows how important this day is to our community.

“Morpeth Pipe Band adds an awful lot to the occasion and I was delighted to see that so many organisations for young people were represented.

“As always, the service was very well conducted and there was some fantastic singing by Rebecca.

“It was lovely to meet Sgt Browne and speak to him about the work of the Armed Forces. He is a very nice chap and very modest about his achievements.”

The serving member of The Royal Lancers was part of a Brigade Reconnaissance Force that was supporting an Afghan Special Forces Team carrying out a sweep of an area of land – they were looking for enemy munitions and IED components.

The group came under attack and one of the UK soldiers on the operation, Bombardier Aaron Foyle, was hit.

Sgt Browne followed his training to help his friend and after pulling him through a boggy poppy field by his collar, he then provided covering fire as he was attended to by a medic before a helicopter arrived to collect him.

He and some of the others who were named in the Operational Honours and Awards List were invited to Westminster in London and they were addressed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Sunday, a special toast in his honour took place in the Town Hall after the parade.

Morpeth town councillor David Clark made the arrangements after getting in touch with Sgt Browne’s father, Stephen, who lives in the town.

He said: “After reading about his bravery, I felt that it was appropriate to invite him to the service and I’m very proud that he was able to break from an exercise on Salisbury Plain to return to Morpeth.

“It was great that the people of the town were able to show him our appreciation for his efforts. Sgt Browne was very humble – he said it was a great honour to be asked to take part in the parade and when the incident took place in Afghanistan, every other soldier in his position would have taken the same actions.

“The picture of him that I posted on the Morpeth Matters Facebook site has already received around 900 likes.”

Stephen Browne thanked Coun Clark for inviting his son and said it was lovely that Sgt Browne was given the opportunity to speak with Morpeth residents.

A two-minute silence also took place in the town centre yesterday, Armistice Day, after Rev White and Coun Byard addressed the public from a dais outside the Town Hall.

Another service to honour members of the Armed Forces who died in battle in the First World War and conflicts since then took place at County Hall in Loansdean yesterday.

War veterans and representatives of the RAF, Royal British Legion and Royal Regiment of Fusiliers attended.

Wreaths of poppies were laid at the war memorial outside the building by Coun Kath Nisbet, civic head at Northumberland County Council, and others and a two-minute silence was held.

The service was conducted by Vivienne Sommerville, a member of the county council’s Chaplaincy Team.