A brand new campaign to get remembrance moving with waves of wreaths travelling by train across the UK has been hailed a huge success.
Routes of Remembrance was created by The Veterans Charity for 2021 following the success of its Poppies to Paddington initiative, a joint venture with Great Western Railway (GWR).
This year went even further, with wreaths and Veterans boarding trains on networks around the country on November 11, Armistice Day, most bound for London where they took part in memorial services at the major stations in the capital.
More than 350 wreaths were placed upon trains on the day as 2021 saw the campaign expanded to include more 10 train operators, as well as airlines, ferry companies and even a ship which was involved in the Dunkirk operation in 1940.
Highlights of the campaign saw wreaths on tour around the UK and overseas, including to Normandy, The Somme, The Falkland Islands, Jersey and Cyprus.
A Merlin helicopter from 814 Squadron at RNAS Culdrose bearing a wreath hovered over Land’s End, plus locations including the iconic St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall were light up in red to mark remembrance.
A UK tour wreath which began its journey with the Tour of Britain cycle race back in June, went to the most northerly point of Britain, toured the six counties of Northern Ireland and finally sailed up the Thames on board Dunkirk ‘little ship’ Wairakei II for an 11/11 ceremony on board HMS Belfast.
Danny Greeno, CEO of The Veterans Charity, said overall the event had been a great success.
“We are hugely grateful to everyone who made this work, from the veterans and the generous transport operators to the military, emergency services, local councils and all our fantastic volunteers.
“It was a massive operation but on the whole we made it work and it was an emotional sight to see so many wreaths being carried on to London platforms.
“This was the first national campaign but we are delighted to how well everything went and we are already planning for next year and plan to cover even more locations and to honour more of our fallen across the UK and beyond.”
Networks across the UK were involved, with wreaths travelling from the Scottish Highlands, Wales and all points in between.
In the south and west, the mammoth operation kept the Poppies to Paddington name, while in the rest of the country it was Routes of Remembrance, but the format was the same.
Veterans of all ages were joined by military personnel, emergency service representatives or dignitaries at their local stations to place a wreath on the London train, many before first light, with several also making the journey themselves.
London stations St Pancras, Euston, Liverpool St, Kings Cross and Paddington saw a hive of activity and a sea of red as veterans and many, many wreaths arrived for the 11am remembrance service.
Those taking part included World War Two and D-Day veteran Harry Billinge MBE from Cornwall, aged 95 and Weston-super-Mare Normandy veteran Reg Charles, 98.
Scottish Afghanistan veteran Rebecca Dewis travelled all the way from the Highlands to lay a wreath in London, despite usually avoiding Remembrance events because they reminded her of the comrades she had lost.
Iain Henderson, trustee of The Veterans Charity, said they were overwhelmed by the offers of help they received from the armed forces, transport operators and organisations up and down the country.
“Remembrance is important to people but we were bowled over by the help and amazing offers we received.
“RNAS Culdrose volunteered to fly the UK tour wreath to the Isles of Scilly and then hover at Land’s End with the Cornish wreath, while St Michael’s Mount lit up for us – and there were so many other offers of support, we appreciated each and every one.
“For us, this was about honouring those who have fallen in armed conflicts, but also to raise awareness of our charitable work that we do every day, supporting UK veterans of all ages.
“We provide help for veterans and their families, who find themselves battling hardship and need a little assistance to get back on their feet.
“We hope the 2022 Routes of Remembrance will enable us to do even more and if you or your organisation would like to get involved, it’s not too early to get in touch.”
To find out about being part of Routes of Remembrance next year, to make a donation, volunteer or find out more about the charity, go to https://www.veteranscharity.org.uk.