Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Tameside Will Never Forget

Monday, 13 November 2017

11am on Saturday 11th November 2017 marked the 99 year anniversary of the guns falling silent in World War 1. On that day and the day after, the country joined together in mourning and remembrance for those who fell not just in the “War to End All Wars”, but in all the wars and conflicts before and after.

Tameside played its part as well. Every town in the borough held at least one event, service or ceremony. Along with the other councillors for Droylsden, I attended a remembrance service in the Littlemoss Gardens in Saturday, followed by a parade and wreath laying ceremony at the Droylsden War Memorial the day after. As always, I was encouraged by the amount of people who turned out to pay their respects. In particular, the number of young people in attendance was nothing short of inspirational. There is now nobody left alive with direct experience of World War 1, and even the youngest of those with memories of World War 2 are beginning to hit 90 years of age or more. It will soon fall to the next generations to pick up the torch of remembrance, and from what I’ve seen from this weekend they will absolutely be up for the task.

1917 is a particularly important year to remember, as many of the events which occurred during that bitter and bloody year had resonance long after the hostilities ceased. In April, the United States of America formally entered the war, setting the stage for the final defeat of Germany and the Central Powers. Six months later, the Russian Revolution cast a shadow over the world that persisted until the very end of the 20th century. In Britain however, 1917 saw one battle which, along with the Somme the year before, has become a byword for the horror and slaughter of modern warfare: Passchendaele.

The numbers are harrowing enough. For 105 days, 275,000 young men from Britain and the Commonwealth fell in the carnage in Western Flanders; an average of 2,100 killed or wounded a day. What most people remember however, is the fact that the worst rain for 30 years turned the entire battlefield into a muddy quagmire. Tanks were immobilised, rifles were clogged up and many men simply drowned without ever seeing the enemy. No wonder that General Sir Lancelot Kiggell, upon visiting the battlefield, apparently broke down and declared, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”

But amidst the mud and bodies were stories of incredible human bravery as well. Stories like that of Stalybridge Warrant Officer William Rhodes, killed in action in the 31st July 1917 (the very beginning of the battle) aged only 30 years of age. He was one of eleven men from Stalybridge, and one of three from Millbrook, who fell that day. Just before he died, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). His citation read, “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, he led his platoon with the utmost skill and fearlessness, doing his most valuable work and showing remarkable judgement and powers of leadership. He set a splendid example to all his men.”

It is this which we remembered at the weekend. Not just the courage and heroism of young men thrown into situations the likes of which we could scarcely imagine, but the hope that young men alive today will not have to experience and endure what they did. The original poppies issued by the Royal British Legion carried with them the injunction, “Never again”. We should heed their plea. As we honour all those who have fallen, let us also work towards peace and justice in our communities and throughout the world.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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