One of the largest Remembrance Day crowds in recent memory proudly turned out to honour the sacrifices of fallen servicemen and women at Norwich’s War Memorial this morning.

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As the City Hall clock struck the 11th hour, the gathered hundreds were hushed into a respectful silence alongside senior military officers, service veterans and civic dignitaries.

A crowd stretching from the Forum to the bottom of Gaol Hill joined the service, led by Rev Canon Peter Nokes from St Peter Mancroft church.

The Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson, was the first to lay a wreath on the city’s war memorial, followed by representatives of the army, navy, air force and the Royal British Legion.

After the service, a parade of servicemen, veterans and cadets was led by the Norwich Citadel Band to a service at Norwich Cathedral – accompanied by the fluttering standards of military associations and the sound of spontaneous applause from the public onlookers.

Lord Mayor of Norwich Ralph Gayton said: “I thought it was more people than I have seen at one of these for a long, long time and it is very gratifying to see. The Royal Anglians’ homecoming parade in Diss this week could well have had an impact, knowing what the casualty rate has been in Afghanistan. But it has been a year of celebrations and remembrance, so I think people are beginning to react more to these events than they have done before. It was great to see Norwich on parade.”

One of the veterans in the parade was 93-year-old Reginald Burge, from West Earlham in Norwich, who joined the Devonshire Regiment in 1940 and was wounded in France during the Second World War.

After laying a floral tribute at the War Memorial watched by the gathered crowds, he said: “It brings tears to your eyes. It takes me back to when I was in Normandy. I was blown up, and I lost my Bren gun carrier and three of my crew were killed.

“There are only two of my lot left now, and we go round the schools when we’ve got time. Remembrance Day is very important. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Parade marshal Mike Mizen, an ex-Royal Marine who has been involved in the Remembrance Day events in Norwich for 10 years, said: “The thing that people must remember is that this is not something that happened many years ago. It is happening now. Although some of us will remember people from the last war and conflicts in Korea, Suez, Aden and Borneo, we must also remember the newer generation who will remember those who fought in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not just history. These things are happening now and it is important to remember all of them.

“The parade does seem to be getting bigger and the responses the crowd make are very positive. They all clapped as the parade moved away today, and that is a very nice thing. They are showing respect for their ex-servicemen and showing how much they appreciate what they’ve done.”

Group Capt David Cooper is the station commander at RAF Marham, which currently has a squadron of Tornados stationed in Afghanistan. He said: “The services find it relatively easy to remember – it is part of what we do. But to see the public come and join us in that is absolutely fantastic.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community. We are extremely grateful for all the support we get, both in remembrance and in all the ongoing operations. We must not forget that people are still showing the same sport of bravery, and we must not forget the people out in Afghanistan at the moment.”

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: “I think today is a really important occasion for remembering the tremendous sacrifices made by so many in order to keep us safe. We have seen remarkable levels of public support for our brave armed personnel and it is brilliant to see people coming out, lining the streets and paying tribute.”

During the service, the Rev Canon Peter Nokes said: “This parade and the act of honouring in which we participate here this morning is a remembering of actions. It is a story-telling without words of the costs and the consequences of war.

“In the 20th century, 170 million men, women and children lost their lives as a result of war, conflict and tyranny, which is three times the population of England and Wales. In the 21st century, in just 12 years, as a result of war, oppression and atrocities, 616,000 have lost their lives. The two minutes silence opens the doors to some of the most ghastly and painful moments we can imagine.

“But remembering is as much about the future as it is about the past. The armed forces are still being sent to these dangerous parts of the globe and take the same risks for strangers as they would for their friends.”

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