A former Blackpool soldier has today issued an impassioned plea to fellow veterans to turn out for this year’s landmark Remembrance Day parade in Blackpool.
Chris Clayton, 65, from Layton, said he has been disapointed with the turn out of ex-Royal Artillery gunners his own age at past Remembrance Day patades – and wants to encourage more of them to come and pay their respects.
Ex-gunner Mr Clayton joined the Army in 1967 and saw service in Germany, Northern Ireland and as part of a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus in 1973 before leaving in 1978.
He served in 32 Regiment, the Royal Artillery and later ran his own plastering company after leaving the forces.
But he says he has been concerned by the lack of veterans of his generation at previous parades and says many are attended largely by older ex-forces personnel.
Now, with this year marking 100 years since the start of the First World War, he is urging as many ex-forces vets as possible to turn out to this year’s event on November 9.
He said: “Each time I go to the parade in Blackpool you get the odd one of my age, but there is a large body of men in the army. I know there’s plenty of men, especially gunners, out there, that I want to come out of the woodwork.
“It is a time thing - there are the old boys that have been coming every year. They are all of advancing years, in their 90s now, and it is people in my age group it seems who are not attending.
“I want more people to come out so we can march as a body.
“I go to my regiment once a year and most of them my age are fit as fleas.”
Asked why he thinks fewer of his comrades turn out, he added: “I don’t know. They will go to regimental dos.”
This year’s parade starts on the North Pier at 10.30am, moves to the war memorial for 11am and culminates with a march that then goes past the Town Hall in Talbot Square.
Chris’ plea was contained in a letter to The Gazette designed to try and appeal to his fellow gunners and all ex-servicemen and women.
It stated: “To all Royal Artillery and attached.
“Are there any ex-gunners out there amongst Gazette readers that would parade with me on next Remembrance Sunday? It would be a terrible shame if on the centenary of the Great War, an important and integral part of our beloved British Army was not represented by a decent turnout.
“Time and tide have taken their toll on ex-gunners but I’m sure there is enough of us out there to fill the breach.
“And so, in my entreaty; I call to you in words all gunners will understand, “Fire. Mission. Regiment!”
He added: “All gunners know what it means. ‘Fire, Mission, Regiment’ is designed to galvanise you and spur you into action.
“If I can get a few new faces and get a good turnout, I’ll be happy.”