Thousands lined the streets of Leighton-Linslade for the annual Remembrance Sunday Parade, and to honour the town’s hero, Wally Randall.
On Sunday, November 10, around 4,000 people came to pay their respects to the fallen with the Act of Remembrance at Leighton Buzzard War Memorial, while 104-year-old poppy seller Wally Randall was also appointed as the first ever Honorary Freeman of the parish of Leighton-Linslade.
At approximately 12.30pm an Act of Remembrance also took place at Linslade War Memorial, while on Friday, 10 schools gathered in town for a special ceremony, and around 60 people visited the High Street today to observe the two minute silence.
Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor and Royal British Legion president, Mark Freeman, said: “When Wally arrived on Sunday there was a spontaneous round of applause as he walked up.
“He is a brilliant bloke who was active in the community before I was born and he has been selling poppies for over 50 years. He chaired the Urban District Council in the 1960s, he was the director of the Co-op in the town, and he’s been [branch] chairman of the Royal British Legion.
“His collecting for the Legion’s Poppy Appeal has also been phenomenal.
“People specifically go to Wilko to buy from him - even though they may already have one.
“Last year he collected over £1,000.”
Mark is “very grateful” to everyone for supporting the event, and the Remembrance Service in Linslade.
He would like to thank All Saints and St Barnabas churches, the voluntary organisations who helped, the Salvation Army and its bugler (who was present on Friday, Sunday and today), and all those who took part.
Mark said: “The message from the children at Friday’s ceremony was really strong: we do it to remember the people from the past and learn from mistakes, so that it doesn’t happen again. There was so much sacrifice to defend our freedom.
“But we look around the world and nobody has learnt from what happened in the past; we are still suffering from conflict.
“These conflicts are such a waste of life and not just the lives that are lost - the changes to the servicemen and women coming home physically and mentally - and to their families.
“My stepson Jonathan Tweedle was in the RAF and used to fly transport planes out to Bosnia and the Middle East.
“He would go off and his kids didn’t know whether he would come home again...”
Wally himself was a motor mechanic in the service corps during World War Two, and was sent to North Africa, taking the Fourth Indian Division up to the front line during El Alamein.
His father Daniel died serving in World War One, when Wally was just three-years-old.
Commenting on his appointment as Honourary Freeman, Wally, who was also presented with a ‘Lest We Forget’ framed picture from local veterans, said: “I didn’t expect to get this. I just do what I can to help people.
“We are counting the money today and tomorrow up at the Legion.
“In Wilkos people kept coming up and putting money in, saying: ‘We’ve already got a poppy’. They put extra money in. People are so generous.
“They are also very generous at Wilko; they give me cups of tea and let me sit inside.”
Until fairly recently, only a handful of local councils had the standing to confer the title of Honorary Freeman. However, changes in legislation now mean that parish councils are able to bestow this title on a “person of distinction who has rendered eminent services in the council’s area”.
Wally, who was born in Wing, was presented the title by Town Mayor Councillor David Bowater, and hopes to be back selling poppies next year, especially because the charity supports the Invictus Games.
The event, created by Prince Harry, helps to generate a wider understanding and respect for the Armed Forces personnel injured in service, and Wally himself knows what the support of the wider community can mean.
He added: “I think what Prince Harry is doing with the Invictus Games is brilliant; it helps those who have been injured or have PTSD.
“I used to work at the LBO as a paper boy and I did a printing apprenticeship. The proprietor Harry Midgley, had a soft spot for me because my dad died in the war.”
Similarly, Mark hopes that just as many people will turn out to support the remembrance events next year.
Looking ahead to 2020, he said: “As president of the Royal British Legion, I would welcome a purple poppy wreath to remember the animals that were used and gave their lives, not voluntarily.”