Memorial brought Bertie to mind

Derek James attends the unveiling of the new war memorial in Norwich.

As we stood in silence to remember the fallen in front of the magnificent new war memorial we had waited so long for, my thoughts turned to a man by the name of Bertie Alfred Withers.

It was in Norwich of 1927 when a gathering of more than 40,000 people watched as Bertie, a disabled soldier who had served with the Norfolk Regiment during the First World War, unveiled the then new memorial outside the Guildhall.

Although the rich and the powerful were all there, including the civic leaders of the day, it was Bertie who took centre stage.

He was the one chosen to unveil the memorial and now, all these years on, we were finally unveiling the memorial again, this time facing the City Hall.

Standing on the Guildhall roof all those years ago the Lord Bishop of Norwich addressed the huge crowd crowd saying: 'Our hearts are full of friendship today.

'We forget the things which divide us – in civic life, in views about problems of state at home and abroad.

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'Parties which dispute in public life are gathered into one.

'Before God, before this sacred emblem, we are all friends...we are united in remembering those men and women from our city who have given their lives for us.'

In Norwich of 2010 the people listened as the Rev Canon Peter Nokes, vicar of St Peter Mancroft, spoke those words again.

Some things never change – I think Bertie would have approved.