Sun 6th May 2007
People will remember the brave endeavours of two South Tyneside Victoria Cross winners for years to come after their statues were unveiled at South Shields Town Hall.
Old and young alike turned out to honour two of the borough's most famous sons in a ceremony at South Shields Town Hall. Cadets stood alongside retired servicemen, including two Chelsea pensioners, as statues were unveiled to Private Thomas Young and Captain Richard Annand.
Both were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for their bravery in the first and second world wars respectively.
In March 1918, after an offensive near Arras, Pte Young returned time and again to no-man's-land to rescue nine men lying wounded in shell craters.
Capt Annand, who died in 2004, ignored enemy fire to rescue his batman, using a wheelbarrow, during the retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940.
They have been immortalised by sculptor Roger Andrews to make sure their bravery is never forgotten.
An education project has been developed around the statues, including a DVD, website and heritage trail which will pick out local sites connected to the Durham Light Infantry (DLI).
Pte Young, of Boldon Colliery, and Capt Annand, of South Shields, both served with the DLI, and it was the South Shields branch of the DLI Association that came up with the idea for the statues.
A Gazette-backed appeal helped raise the last £5,000 of the £20,000 needed, with donations coming from individuals and businesses.
Branch president Lieutenant Colonel John Davis said: "Everybody in the branch is absolutely delighted with how well the ceremony went.
"It is the end of an almost two and a half year journey from the original concept. The ceremony was really an opportunity once again to say a very big thank you to an awful lot of people."
John Welsh, 86, of West Boldon, unveiled the statue of his "favourite uncle Tommy". "He was a lovely chap," he said. "When he was going to work, he used to say, 'Sing me a song, Jackie'. I had to sing his favourite song, Why Doesn't Santa Like Me, and he used to give me a penny.
"Another time I got lost and the whole village was out looking for me. I was at the colliery reservoir at 11pm, feeding the swans, when who should I see first but my uncle Tommy." Mr Welsh was a soldier himself, serving in Burma for three years as a sergeant with the Royal Engineers, and volunteering for action in the Second World War.
He said he was honoured that the people of South Tyneside had come together to see the statue commissioned.
He added that he was especially proud to see the statues erected in the town hall, a building he has always admired.
His uncle would be equally proud, he said, adding: "That would be his greatest accolade."
Sir David Chapman unveiled the bronze statue of Capt Annand and described the 6ft-tall creation as "quite magnificent".
He said: "It is a great honour for the family to have Dick recognised in this way for his home town.
"The family are very grateful for all the support that has been given to make this dream come true."
Lieutenant-General Robin Brims, who knew Capt Annand and spoke at his memorial service in Durham Cathedral, presented the statues on behalf of the DLI Association.
He said: "The example set by these two fine people is one to which we should all aspire."
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ed Malcolm, said it was important to remember the men and their comrades, and the tragedy of war.
He said: "We now have an extra bit of history in the building, which will not only tell of South Tyneside's famous sons, but keep alive the history and link with the county regiment, one of the most famous regiments in the British Army."
Smaller replica statues were presented to Lt Gen Brims, Sir David and Mr Welsh.
During the unveiling ceremony, a prayer was read by the Rev Raymond Burr, of St Hilda's Church, and a minute's silence was held, followed by The Last Post.
Geoff Ford, chairman of Ford Components, persuaded businesses, including the Gazette, to donate at least £50 each to help the DLI Association reach its target.
He said: "The business sector in South Tyneside comes in for quite a lot of flak, more often than not, for being uncommitted or uninvolved in the community.
"The opportunity to help raise funds for these statues was the opportunity we had been looking for, and this time we came up trumps.
"A variety of businesses were significantly involved and gave a wide variety of sums of money.
"We had virtually every part of the business sector involved, small businesses to large, and a lot of people wanting to do a great deal to help."