Sacrifices remembered in Peterborough for Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day parade in City Centre attended by Mayor of Peterborough Coun. Chris Ash EMN-180630-175836009
Armed Forces Day parade in City Centre attended by Mayor of Peterborough Coun. Chris Ash EMN-180630-175836009
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Peterborough residents came out to pay tribute to sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces this weekend.

Celebrations and commemorations to mark Armed Forces Day took place in the city centre on Saturday, with a parade through Cathedral Square.

Shoppers lined the streets to watch the parade

One of the other highlights was the official unveiling of a blue plaque in Cathedral Square, marking the site of the former forces recruitment office.

The office was located on the site of what is now Boots Opticians, and during its life span saw 8,000 people recruited.

The plaque was unveiled by Peterborough Mayor, Cllr Chris Ash, along with dignitaries, including Jaspal Singh DL (representing the Lord Lieutenant), Lt Col A P Gifford from the 158 Regiment and Group Captain A Keeling, Station Commander at RAF Wittering along with city cadets.

Councillor Ash, who also took part in an inspection of cadets in the square, said: “When the First World War began in August 1914, I suspect that people never really knew the struggle, stress and carnage the recruits would face or for how long.

“It’s so sad to think that of the 8,000 men from the City and Soke of Peterborough who signed up, many never returned. In commemorating the part this building played in the city’s war efforts, we must never forget the sacrifice of the recruits who went through the doors of this recruitment office”

Cllr John Fox, Chairman of the Armed Forces Partnership Board, who spearheaded a motion for the plaque which was passed by full council back in 2016, said: “This plaque is a poignant reminder to never forget the brave men of all nationalities from this city who served the Commonwealth.

“It’s also fitting that this plaque will be unveiled in 2018, 100 years after the war ended. The efforts of these brave soldiers will be remembered for years to come by everyone who walks past this building and by those who take part in the city’s blue plaque trail.”

June Bull, a former councillor and historian who has extensively researched Peterborough’s military past, said: “The sheer numbers of men from the city who responded immediately to the call of arms was staggering.

“At the outbreak of war 970 local men had joined the Army, 124 men joined the Reserve Peterborough Battery and there were 190 Peterborough men in the Service Battery; 79 in the Yeomanry; 100 in the Hunts Cyclist Battalion already on active service; another 750 Peterborough men had called up to the colours as Reservists - so altogether 2,020 men had signed up straight away.”

Ray Preston, Chair of Peterborough’s Armed Forces Committee, said: “It’s only when you stop and think about it that you realise the 8,000 men who enlisted to go to war represented 43 per cent of the entire city’s population at that time (18,360). That’s everyday city fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins.

“When you consider that many never returned, you will understand just how much of an impact the First World War had in Peterborough and the UK as a whole.”

Toby Wood from the Peterborough Civic Society said: “The unveiling of this blue plaque is important as it recognises the city’s contribution in the First World War. We will be including this building in any future blue plaque trail so that residents and tourists can remember the brave actions of Peterborians.”