Shefford standard bearer joins 2,000 others at Menin Gate commemoration

PUBLISHED: 17:04 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:27 14 August 2018

Tom Murphy bore the standard for the Shefford and District Royal British Legion branch at the Great Pilgrimage 90 parade last week. Picture: Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy bore the standard for the Shefford and District Royal British Legion branch at the Great Pilgrimage 90 parade last week. Picture: Tom Murphy

Archant

The standard bearer for the Shefford branch of the Royal British Legion was one of more than 2,000 from across the UK to parade at the Menin Gate last week.

Standard bearers from across the UK gathered at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom MurphyStandard bearers from across the UK gathered at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy represented the town at the Legion’s One Hundred Days ceremony, part of the Great Pilgrimage 90 event last Wednesday in Ypres, Belgium.

“We were invited to attend the event last year,” said Tom.

“It’s been about 18 months in the planning.

“The whole idea behind the parade was that in 1928, the families of those who lost their lives in the First World War were invited over to Europe to tour the battlefields and to go to the Menin Gate.

Tom and his daughter Sarah with Shefford mayor Paul Makin (second right) and the branch chairman Brian McGivena. Picture: Tom MurphyTom and his daughter Sarah with Shefford mayor Paul Makin (second right) and the branch chairman Brian McGivena. Picture: Tom Murphy

“It didn’t happen in 1938 because of the trouble that was starting in Germany ahead of the Second World War.

“This was really a commemoration of the original parade.

“In fact, it was the legion’s biggest ever event. Over half of the branches from across the UK and Europe attended.

“Branches had to fund getting there, so not all of them could come unfortunately.”

Standard bearers from across the UK gathered at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom MurphyStandard bearers from across the UK gathered at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom Murphy

The more-than-2,000-strong parade also visited the same battlefields the families did 90 years ago.

Tom’s daughter Sarah was also involved in the commemoration, laying a wreath at the gate to remember those that died.

“I am very proud of her,” he said.

“For a 13-year-old in front thousands of people and dignitaries she did remarkably well, capturing the mood and laying her wreath with reverence and grace.

Tom's daughter Sarah laid a wreath at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom MurphyTom's daughter Sarah laid a wreath at the Menin Gate. Picture: Tom Murphy

“Regrettably I didn’t see her as I was at the back of a sea of Royal British Legion standards.”

Tom bears the standard for the Shefford branch at many memorial services and parades, including Remembrance Sunday.

He has visited the Menin Gate – which stands as a memorial to soldiers with unknown graves – on a number of occasions, but had never before borne the standard there.

Tom said: “I served in the infantry for 20 years and was based in Germany.

“We used to run battlefield tours – so I’ve been to the Menin Gate before, but never for a parade.

“It was a really poignant experience.”

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