The day after The Veterans Charity team attended the Soldiering On Awards 2022 as finalists in the working together category, they attended Hyde Park Corner to launch the “first of the many” wreaths destined for Australia and New Zealand. This epic journey follows on from the Wreaths Across the Atlantic events that started on VE Day 2022, when the Cunard flagship ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2 carried a100 wreaths to New York City, led by a wreath dedicated to British and US Army veteran Rick Rescorla, who died saving thousands in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. These US Wreaths travelled to every US State and the final two crossed the Pacific to Hawaii, one of which rests at the Pearl Harbor memorial to honour the 80th year of the attacks in WW2.
A second wave left Liverpool onboard the MV Atlantic Sea, bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, a port famous as the point of embarkation for hundreds of thousands of Canadian troops in WW1 and WW2. The lead wreath remembered not only the sailors, soldiers and air force personnel from Canada, but a rather famous bear! In 1914 when Lt Harry Colebourn was travelling across Canada, his unit stopped at a railway station in White River, Ontario rescued a black bear cub. He named the bear Winnipeg after his hometown. On arrival in England, it was felt Winnipeg was better living at London Zoo as opposed to heading to the battlefields of France. Winnie the bear stayed there after WW1 and was visited by British Army veteran AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin. These visits were the inspiration to him writing the Winnie the Pooh books! Later on, a WW1 US Ambulance driver went on to turn the books in cartoon films, but then that is what Walt Disney does. So, we felt this incredible bear who travelled by Land and Sea and was honoured by Canadian, British and American service personnel was very fitting.
Working together with the X Forces team who organise the Soldiering On Awards, both the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions and their Defence Attache teams, the Metropolitan Police and UK Veterans the Wreaths Across the Pacific were given a send-off from the ANZAC memorials in Central London. We are proud to say that the first wreath has now touched down in Canberra, Australia at the Australian War Memorial and took part in the Last Post ceremony on the 30th of November. The wreaths were escorted down under by a Royal Air Force veteran, who took these pathfinding wreaths down under. RAF Veteran, Alan Hooper, will take the next two wreaths to North and South islands of New Zealand as the Routes continue to grow around the globe.
Following on from the nautical and airborne wreaths we returned to the railways, where the first Routes of Remembrance – Poppies to Paddington started. This year several Train Operators joined us with keeping remembrance on track and moving, something that started during the COVID pandemic. Wreaths travelled from across England, Scotland and Wales. The first of the many wreaths for the railways was “dropped off” by a Merlin Helicopter of 824 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm at Truthall Halt railway station. Truthall Halt is part of the Helston Heritage Railway and is the most southerly heritage line in the UK, that when in service with GWR, used to serve RNAS Culdrose (home base of 824 Sqn) in both WW1 and WW2. A case of modern air power meeting steam power. This wreath then was escorted by veterans to the Isles of Scilly (after its second helicopter ride), returning intime to catch the first GWR Intercity Express on Armistice Day to lead hundreds of others travelling to London’s Paddington Station.