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Touching tributes for the heroes of the Somme

Poignant acts of remembrance were held in north Northumberland communities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. A candle vigil, symbolic whistle blasts, prayers and the laying of wreaths were among the touching tributes paid to First World War heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Touching Tributes For The Heroes Of The Somme

Alnwick Mayor Alan Symmonds gives a poignant speech at the commemoration.

In Alnwick, Mayor Alan Symmonds, along with members of the Royal British Legion and the Western Front Association, took part in a short commemoration at the war memorial on Friday. The short service began with a welcome and a poem reading, followed by prayers led by Canon Paul Scott, of St Michael s Church in Alnwick, the exhortation, the Last Post, a minute s silence and wreath laying.

The Mayor read a poem, entitled Before Action, which was written by Lieutenant William Noel Hodgson, of the 9th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. He was killed on the opening day of the Somme July 1, 1916 shortly after the publication of the poem. The commemoration party remembered the 77 men from the Alnwick District who were killed between June 24 and July 17, 1916; 43 of whom lost their lives on the opening day of the Somme.

Touching Tributes For The Heroes Of The Somme

Flag of the Northumberland Fusiliers was lowered before the service by Shay Whitfield, 13, of Hepple Army Cadets. Pictures by Mary Scott

Seven of these 43 were from Alnwick and are honoured on the town s war memorial. They are Lance Corporal William Saunders Bolton; Private William Farrow Douglas; Private James Lothian; Private Robert Blagburn Pattinson; Private George William Pilkington; Private Samuel Willcox; and Captain Arthur Cecil Young. Standard bearers representing the three services stood in remembrance at three corners of the memorial during the service. The exhortation was given by Sid Porteous, himself a Navy and Territorial veteran, while The Last Post was played by Ron Creasey, ex-Permanent Staff Instructor with the Band for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Wreaths were then laid by Neil Brison on behalf of the Royal British Legion, the Mayor on behalf of Alnwick Town Council and Colin Buxton on behalf of the Western Front Association. Earlier in the day, the Mayor was also present at the whistle-blowing event at the war memorial.

Touching Tributes For The Heroes Of The Somme

Group after the service, Coun Steven Bridgett, Rev Michael Boag, Air Vice Marshal (ret) Sandy Hunter and Rothbury Army Cadets, leader Teresa Robson (end back). Pictures by Mary Scott

This was part of nationwide events organised by Western Front Association branches across the country. Whistles were blown in unison at 7.30am, the time the soldiers first went over the top, to mark the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The tribute in Alnwick was organised by the Western Front Association Northumberland branch, which also organised events at the war memorials in Acklington, Alnmouth, Denwick, Felton and Glanton. In Rothbury, the Rev Michael Boag, Rector of Upper Coquetdale, presided over two acts of remembrance on Friday, which attracted a large public attendance at each.

Touching Tributes For The Heroes Of The Somme

Eric Coyle of Netherton lowering the flag of the British Legion, also Rev Michael Boag. Pictures by Mary Scott

The first, following symbolic whistle blasts, saw the flag raised as a piper played and prayers were said. Colonel Tony Glenton, president of the Rothbury branch of the Royal British Legion, took the salute. In the evening, the Rector introduced the act of remembrance and led those assembled in prayers.

It had been said that, if all the casualties of the Battle of the Somme were to march past the Cenotaph in London, four abreast, as the last men passed by, the first four would be approaching Durham. In this more sombre ceremony, the names of the 17 men of Upper Coquetdale who died were read out and, as a piper played a lament, the flag an original Northumberland Fusiliers flag on loan from the Fusiliers Museum in Alnwick Castle was lowered by Cadet Shay Whitfield, from Hepple. The 17 men from the valley to be killed at the Somme were Alfred Chisam; Henry George Clark; William Dawson; Phillip Downie; William Forster; Robert Gutherson; George Hately; Robert Hounam; James Frederick Hood; Thomas Murray; Francis Alexander McGregor; James McTear; Robert Henry Pringle; James Robert Richardson; James Scott Richardson; James Weallans Rutherford; and George Henry Hall Scott.

Cadets from the Rothbury Detachment of the Army Cadet Force, under the command of Staff Sergeant Teresa Robson, assisted in both ceremonies. During the two minutes silence, the standard of the Rothbury branch of the RBL, borne by Eric Croyle of Netherton, was lowered. The Rothbury Highland Pipe Band, under Drum Major David Brown, marched off at the end of the evening act of remembrance, acknowledged by the chairman of Rothbury Parish Council Coun Steven Bridgett; Captain Iain Moffat, of the Royal Naval Reserve and former Vice Lord-Lieutenant; and Air Vice-Marshal (retired) and former Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland Sandy Hunter, who is chairman of the Rothbury branch of the Royal British Legion.

In Amble, the Royal British Legion Riders Branch staged a poignant vigil in the Town Square to commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme. A candle vigil started at 7.30am on Friday and ran until 11am on Saturday. Second World War veteran George Skipper, who lives in Whitley Bay but was previously from Amble, was taken from Amble in a sidecar to a commemorative exhibition in Warkworth. On the Friday, Warkworth had staged a short ceremony at the war memorial in Dial Place to commemorate those who lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The 179 British personnel who died during the Iraq war

The invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 179 British personnel between March 2003 and February 2009. Tony Blair told the Chilcot Inquiry[1] into the conflict he had “deep and profound regret” about the loss of life suffered by British troops and the countless Iraqi civilians. Some of the Britons who died were just 18 years-old.

Here is a roll of honour of the British personnel who died on service during Operation Telic in Iraq:

References

  1. ^ Chilcot Inquiry (www.itv.com)

British armed forces set to ban most prescriptions of controversial anti-malarial drug Lariam

A long awaited parliamentary report into Britain s armed forces being given a highly controversial anti-malarial medication, Lariam[1], is due to recommend that it is banned except in very restricted cases, according to campaigners against the use of the drug and senior Whitehall sources. Campaigners had hoped for a complete end to the prescribing of the drug. Nevertheless, the findings of the Defence Select Committee, out on Tuesday, are seen as likely to be enough for hundreds of legal cases being taken against the Ministry of Defence by service men and women who say they have suffered terribly from taking Lariam. A number of senior officers say that recognition of the dangerous side-effects that the use of Lariam is long overdue. General Lord Richards, the former head of the British military, told The Independent that measures should be taken to implement the recommendations in the report, due out on Tuesday, without delay.

It is understood that as Chief of Defence Staff, General Richards had raised the issue of concern over the drug within the Ministry of Defence. He said today If the use of Lariam is banned, or even restricted, it would not be before time. There has been worry for a very long time over the use of Lariam, I know personally from when we were serving in Sierra Leone in 2000. We know people who have been affected by this drug. I certainly hope that appropriate steps are taken as soon as possible. Lady Caroline Richards, the General s wife, had also taken a keen interest in matter for a long time. She added Wives and partners of people who had been affected by the use of Lariam approached me and described what had happened. There were some terrible, sad stories of trauma, of relationships ending, psychological problems. We heard about other forces which have stopped using Lariam, so this is obviously something which needed looking into. Gen Richards led British troops in Sierra Leone when the civilian population of the country was under attack from armed militias. He was also the head of international forces in Afghanistan. British troops serving in both countries were prescribed Lariam by the MoD.

Mental Health Awareness: Facts and figures

Lariam is the brand name of the medication Mefloquine which was developed by the US Army in the 1970s. In 2012 it was alleged, but not proven, that a US soldier, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales[2] who massacred 16 villagers in southern Afghanistan, was on Lariam. In 2013 the US Food and Drug Administration added a warning to the packages of the drug regarding potential neuropsychiatric side effects which may persist even after its use is ended. The same year US special forces stopped prescribing Lariam to its members.

British Armed Forces Set To Ban Most Prescriptions Of Controversial Anti-malarial Drug Lariam Bales is accused of gunning down 16 villagers – mostly women and children – in 2012 (REUTERS)

The British Armyrats © military no longer gives Lariam to its divers or pilots, but continues to do so with soldiers. The law firm, Hilary Meredith Solicitors, say they have already been contacted by 470 former Armyrats © military personnel prescribed Lariam who have suffered from a range of side effects including hallucinations, severe depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety. Another firm, Irwin Mitchell, say they have received more than 30 approaches from people affected by taking the medication. The Legal firms representing the former personnel hold that prospect of successful litigation will be strengthened as the Defence Committee report shows that the MoD had failed to find the correct balance between providing protection against malaria and the side effects of Lariam. Philippa Tuckman, a partner at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, said because of the risks associated with Lariam the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as long ago as 1996 took the extremely rare step of saying that any doctor who is going to prescribe Lariam needs to make sure not only that the patient is completely aware of the possibility of psychiatric and other problems, but also that they know they must get to a doctor, before the next dose, if they experience any of these problems.

Above all, the MHRA made it crystal clear that absolutely no one with any history whatever of neuropsychiatric disorders – and that would include problems that are common in the military, such as PTSD and anger management or alcohol issues – should be given the drug. It is negligent to administer Lariam without following the MHRA s guidance. I have personally heard so many service personnel tell me that they were not asked about their history, that they were not told about the potentially catastrophic side effects of the drug.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Marriott, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was prescribed Lariam before going to Sierra Leone to train the country s troops in 2003. He was told that there may be side effects, but that these would be temporary. Instead he has suffered severe long-term problems. The MoD has accepted my condition was caused by Lariam , said Lt Col Marriott. I have not had one night s undisturbed sleep since 2002. I have nightmares which I do not want to tell anyone about. Lt Col Marriott, who left the Army in 2008, said: This problem has been known about for a very long time. It is quite disgraceful that it has taken so long for something to be done. There needs to be a detailed examination of some of the officials on this matter.

We are told that Lariam only adversely affects a small number of people. But why on earth would anyone want to risk that with people using weapons in a hostile situation? I have been in the Army for 30 years and served all over the world. Hasty decisions are sometimes made in the heat of battle which are mistakes and which are then rectified. But the decisions on Lariam were made by people sitting in relative safety back home; and they refuse to rectify their mistakes. An MOD spokesperson said: All anti-malarial treatments have associated side effects but we must protect our personnel from this potentially fatal disease. We need to be able to use the most appropriate drug to ensure resistance and base our advice on Public Health England guidelines. While Mefloquine [Lariam} is used throughout the world, it s not prescribed widely in the UK military, and only after an individual risk assessment.

References

  1. ^ Lariam (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (www.independent.co.uk)
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