NAVAL heroes from conflicts spanning more than seven decades took to the streets of Tyneside yesterday as they remembered fallen comrades.
More than 350 highly-decorated Naval veterans have spent the weekend in Newcastle for the annual Royal Naval Association conference.
And yesterday hundreds of Royal Navy veterans marched through the streets of Newcastle to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Led by Lt Cdr Paul Hurst and his South Shields Sea Cadets Band, the veterans held a special service at St Nicholas’ Cathedral before laying a wreath at the Collingwood Memorial.
The veterans then made their way to Grey’s Monument before paying their respects at the Old Eldon Square war memorial, where a wreath was laid followed in a short act of remembrance.
Captain Paul Quinn, general secretary of the Royal Naval Association, said: “We go all around the place for the conferences, we’ve been to Plymouth, Londonderry and even France.
“We had the National Standard Bearer, Steven Susans, and there was a service in St Nicholas’ Cathedral. The whole weekend is a celebration of the Royal Navy, to swap stories and pay tribute. This year we are particularly remembering those who served in the Falklands’ War as it is the 30th anniversary.”
Among those to take part in the weekend celebrations was CPO Tom Joyce, from the Red House Farm estate in Gosforth, Newcastle.
The 78-year-old joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy in 1951 and was among hundreds of armed forces veterans who lined the streets of London for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Later that year he was inspected by the Queen as part of the Spithead Review, where Her Majesty cast her eye over 300 ships of the fleet in Portsmouth.
During his highly-decorated career in the armed forces, he secured a string of medals including the Pingat Jasa Malaysia, a medal given by the King and Government of Malaysia.
It recognises veterans’ “distinguished chivalry, gallantry, sacrifice, or loyalty” in contributing to the freedom and independence of Malaysia.
In the 1960s Mr Joyce served alongside the Royal Marines and Army as they battled the “Red Wolves of the Redfan”, a militant group who fought the British Armed Forces in the Republic of Yemen during the Aden Emergency.
Mr Joyce yesterday relived his two decades in the Royal Navy. He said: “In 1953 I was on the streets for the Queen’s Coronation and then later that year I was part of the Spithead fleet review. After that I went on HMS Vengeance when we escorted the Queen and the Royal Yacht, the Gothic, around Australia and the Solomon Islands.
“During the Aden conflict I was supporting the Royal Marines 42 Commando and the Army. It was a very bloody conflict – we carried people who had died and we picked up a lot of casualties. During the 1960s I was posted with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and one of my jobs was to hang from the helicopter with a blue bag and deliver mail to the submarines.
“The subs would come up and a man would come out and we would earth the helicopter because if you didn’t it would go up a cloud of smoke. One time I delivered the post and submarine went below the water and the pilot of the helicopter dunked me in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
“I was in radio contact with him and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He came back and he just said, ‘We’re just doing a bit of shark fishing’.”
Also at the ceremony was Nicky Munro, 89, from Wardley, in Gateshead, who served in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during four years of service that began in 1942.
Meanwhile George Laverick, from Gosforth, also turned out for the event. The 87-year-old joined the Royal Navy when he was just 17 and served on the HMS Ganges before joining the HMS Malaya and was involved in the bombardment of St Malo in 1942.