Leeds pays tribute on Remembrance Sunday despite scaled back plans due to Covid-19 lockdown

It is a day when the nation comes together to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

By Joanna Wardill
Sunday, 8th November 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 9th November 2020, 10:20 am
Susan Watson ties ribbons to trees on the Leeds Outer Ring Road at Horsforth, planted  to commerate each person  killed in WWII from the village as part of Rembrance Sunday. . Picture Tony Johnson
Susan Watson ties ribbons to trees on the Leeds Outer Ring Road at Horsforth, planted to commerate each person killed in WWII from the village as part of Rembrance Sunday. . Picture Tony Johnson

And while crowds would normally gather at the war memorials across the city to pay their respect in person, this year’s Remembrance Sunday looked very different due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed on Thursday.

While there may not have been the usual parades and services this year, the people of Leeds made sure the day was still marked with poignant acts of remembrance across the city.

Encouraged to observe the national two minutes’ silence at home and display poppies in their windows, many also watched the pre-recorded remembrance service and wreath-laying ceremony at the city’s war memorial online, with the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Eileen Taylor, Lord-Lieutenant Ed Anderson and members of the Royal British Legion.

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An informal parade at Leeds cenotaph in Victoria Gardens marks the annual Remembrance Service which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture Tony Johnson

In the footage, Coun Taylor said: “The wreath that I have laid at the war memorial on behalf of all the citizens of Leeds pays tribute to those who sacrificed their live so we may live in peace.

“Let us all remember them, safely from home, all those who gave their tomorrow so we can have our today.

“We will remember them. Take care and stay safe.”

During the ‘civic observance’, Leeds Minister Rev Canon Sam Corley paid tribute to “those who have given their lives in the defence of freedom and justice” as well as “the civilan victims of war and acts of terrorism”.

Little Margot King, one, put poppies on the war graves at her local cemetery in Wortley on Remembrance Sunday. Picture sent in by mum Mandy.

Around 100 people informally gathered at city centre memorial for an unofficial parade with wreath-laying and to observe the two minute silence.

In Wetherby, civic dignitaries and members of the Royal British Legion branch took part in the two-minute silence and a wreath-laying ceremony which was broadcast live on Facebook, where almost 100 people had gathered virtually to watch, along with a service afterwards at St James' Parish Church.

Edna Hilditch, RBL Wetherby branch president, who served in the RAF for 23 years, said: "It was a big disappointment for us that we couldn't have the parade we normally do - we normally have about 400 people in the parade in Wetherby and the town really turns out in force to support us."

She said about 50 people did still turn up at the memorial to pay their respects, and added: "It was also quite foggy - there was quite an eerie feeling when you were there. But I suppose that was quite poignant."

The Pudsey and Farsley Branch of the Royal British Legion also recorded a service of remembrance to mark the day, which was broadcast by Pudsey Parish Church on Sunday, as part of a programme of events to help the local community mark the occasion.

This included encouraging residents to decorate a small pebble with a poppy or similar and placing it on the War Grave at Pudsey Cemetery, as well as creating a display of 2,500 poppy crosses in the Field of Remembrance at Pudsey Parish Church.

In Horsforth, volunteer Susan Watson tied ribbons to trees along the ring road, which were originally planted in memory of those lost during World War II.

Crosses were also placed on trees along Stanhope Drive which had been planted in memory of those lost in World War I as well as on memorials in the cemetery, which residents were encouraged to walk around and view.

Susan said it was important to find ways for people to be able to pay their respects this year.

She said: “It’s quite important really because Horsforth [usually] has a really big gathering at the Remembrance service – between 600 and 700 people. The service has not happened so people were looking for things to do."

Little Margot King was among those paying tribute in Leeds on Remembrance Sunday at the tender age of one.

Dad and Royal Marine, Lewis King, 35, of Wortley, took her to the local cemetery to put poppies on all the war graves, including a Victoria Cross recipient.

Mum Mandy sent in a photo of Margo adorning the graves with poppies and said: "It would have been her first year at Leeds war memorial but with the restrictions we decided to pay our respects at the local 22 war graves, one of which is a Victoria Cross winner."

She added: "Small acts of kindness and respect should start young."

The Royal British Legion this year also issued an urgent plea for people to donate to the Poppy Appeal online because the lockdown mean all face-to-face collections had to be suspended - for the first time in the appeal's history.

The legion's director general Charlies Byrne siad: " The loss of that activity could run into millions of pounds in fundraising which means online donations are crucial, and so we’re asking people to support the Poppy Appeal by donating via the Legion’s website."

Twelve independent funeral directors in and around Leeds are helping to boost the Poppy Appeal by signing up to an official fundraising campaign - organised by funeral plan provider Golden Charter - to donate £25 from every plan sold until January.

More information on ways to support the Poppy Appeal can be found at www.rbl.org.uk/poppyappeal.

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