BIRMINGHAM came to a standstill to remember those who gave their lives in wartime.
A crowd of hundreds fell silent in Centenary Square as a volley of rifle fire was sounded during the Remembrance Sunday service yesterday.
The occasion was also marked across the Black Country with a parade in Dudley, civic procession in Walsall and a service at West Bromwich War Memorial.
In Solihull, prayers were said at the town’s war memorial, outside St Alphege Church.
At the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, Royal Marine Matt Croucher, awarded the George Cross for his heroism in Afghanistan, was among worshippers who attended an open-air service.
Solihull-born L/Cpl Croucher, who threw himself on a grenade to save the lives of three fellow servicemen, said that the poignant act of remembrance had given him a chance to remember the sacrifice which was made by fellow service personnel.
The 27-year-old was making his first visit to the arboretum since the name of his friend, fallen Halesowen Marine Jonathan Crookes was inscribed on the site’s national Armed Forces Memorial.
Marine Crookes, from Halesowen, was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in July 2010 while serving with 40 Commando Royal Marines.
After viewing his friend’s name among the 16,000 others on the memorial’s Portland stone walls, L/Cpl Croucher said that the support of the public meant a lot to members of the the armed forces serving abroad.
Laying a small wooden cross outside Birmingham’s Hall of Memory was 64-year-old Jacqueline Taylor who only discovered last year that her grandad died in the First World War.
Harry Victor Farrer was on board the Royal Edward when it was torpedoed, in 1914.
Jacqueline, from Solihull, said: “He was 33 when he died, he left four children and my mum, Alice, was one of them.
“During the service I was thinking how brave he was because he’d already been sent home wounded and within a week of going back he was dead.”
Derek Hughes, vice-chairman of the National Service Veterans’ Association in Birmingham, was thinking of his son and remembering his father.
The 80-year-old, from Sutton Coldfield, lost his dad Herbert in 1943 when a bomb dropped beside the boom defence vessel he was aboard in the River Clyde.
Herbert served on HMS Queen Mary, the first battleship to be sunk at the Battle of Jutland, in 1916. Out of 12,000 crew he was one of only eight saved. Derek’s son 50-year-old Michael was in the army in Afghanistan. Since returning there in a new security job with the Ministry of Defence, he has suffered burns in an explosion.
Claims the armed forces plan to double the number of lay-offs previously announced angered Derek.
He said: “My lad tells me what it’s like out there and we’ve got no chance unless we retain the forces we’ve got now.
“If you speak to anyone in any association, 99.9 per cent would agree with me – to cut the forces is absolutely criminal.”