Flag Raising Ceremony, Wednesday 24th October 2018. 11.00 am Thornhill Playing Park, West Cumbria
Speech by Cllr Sam Meteer:
Good Morning everyone and thanks for attending our flagpole dedication ceremony today.
I can't really think of a more fitting occasion than the centenary of the end of the First World War for this ceremony.
My fellow Councillors; Derek - who is here with me - and Steve, who unfortunately can't be with us today, would like to thank everyone involved in helping with the provision of the flagpole. It is very much a do-it-yourself effort. The project is still evolving and I can see at this stage that perhaps some modifications are probably required. Special thanks must go to a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous, but who spent some considerable time, effort and skill in engineering the pulley and rotational mechanism for the top of the pole. He also put up with my constantly changing plans. He is here today, so once again I offer my grateful thanks.
I would hope the flagpole can become a focal point for the village where we can show unity, and display flags for various occasions - whatever they may be.
Of course, once we had the flagpole in position, we were faced with the task of finding someone to do the honour of raising our first flag. This being the centenary year of the end of the First World War, it seemed appropriate that someone with links to our armed forces should be asked to do the honours. There are many veterans of the armed services within our village, and I'm sure any one of them would have answered our call.
However, I was aware of a young gentleman who I thought should be given the opportunity of raising our first flag. I subsequently approached him and after a short pause he said, 'Yes, I could do that'
That young gentleman is standing next to me here. For those who don't know, this is Nevell Thomas Johnson or as he put it, 'Jonny', as he was always called in the service.
Nevell served in the RAF from 1940 - 1946 and served in many theatres of war. He was only 18 when he joined up, and he served in both the 210 and 240 flying squadrons. During his active service he attained the rank of Warrant Officer 2nd class, and was an air gunner on Catalina Flying Boats. He was involved in actions in the Atlantic and Europe and also the Far East and India.
During one operation in the Mediterranean, his aircraft was attacked by 5 Italian enemy fighter planes, and he was wounded in the back by shrapnel from a cannon shell. Despite extensive damage to the plane it managed to get back to Gibralter, with the crew even managing to pick up 1 German and 3 Italian aircrew en-route, who had been shot down and managed to scramble into a dingy. Nevell spent about a week recovering in the military hospital in Gibralter before returning to active service.
The skipper (captain) of the Catalina Flying Boat subsequently received the DFC - the Distinguished Flying Cross for this little escapade.
Nevell has medals for Operations in Europe, Operations in the Atlantic and Operations in the Far East and India.
He also has a Defence of the Realm medal.
I'm sure you will all agree this is an impressive service record, and It gives me great pleasure to ask 96 years young Nevell to do the honours of raising our first flag.
Note of following proceedings.
The last post was then sounded.
I then read out a verse from the poem 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon:
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them"
2 minutes silence were then observed, after which the bugler sounded reveille. Our bugler was Mr John Edwards, the standard bearer for the Egremont branch of the Veterans Club, formally British Legion Club. Nevell then raised the flag and I asked for a round of applause for him I then again thanked everyone for attending.
Mr Francis (Frank) Tracey then proposed a vote of thanks for me.