Freedom of Longridge granted to veterans

Veterans Charles Hill and Bert Hayes.
Veterans Charles Hill and Bert Hayes.

Longridge’s World War Two veterans have been recognised for their bravery and told we are forever in their debt.

They have each been granted the ‘freedom of Longridge’ by the town council.

Veterans Gerard Rogerson, Reuben Bailey and Harry Paintin

Veterans Gerard Rogerson, Reuben Bailey and Harry Paintin

Five veterans were able to make Saturday’s unique event, which included an afternoon tea party, at which Longridge mayor, Coun Rupert Swarbrick paid tribute to them and presented each with a certificate and a plaque emblazoned with the town crest.

They are Charles Hill, Bert Hayes, Reuben Bailey, Gerard Rogerson and Harry Paintin.

A further three men, Frank White and brothers Fred and Wellington Spencer were unable to attend and Coun Swarbrick will visit them privately, as he will for resident Mary Hughes and anyone else the council hears of who lives in Longridge and served in the war.

The tea party was also attended by the veterans’ family members, representatives from the town council and by pupils from the town’s three primary schools, St Wilfrid’s, Barnacre Road and Longridge C of E.

Toasting the men, Coun Swarbrick said: “It is a great privilege and honour as Town Mayor to host this tea party.

“Most of us in the room have been lucky to have escaped the tyranny and disruption of global conflict and that is in large part because of the sacrifices you made on our behalf all those years ago.”

Coun Swarbrick finished his tribute to the gallant men, by saying: “Granting you the Freedom of Longridge and presenting you with a plaque with the town crest can only be a small symbol of the gratitude and regard that our town has for you.

“We are forever in your debt.”

It is believed that in the history of the council only one other person has been granted the freedom of Longridge, this being the late Coun Bernard Thornton who was mayor four times.

Former Longridge Mayor Coun Rose Adamson came up with the idea to honour the veterans with the freedom of the town during the debate over membership of the European Union.

She said: “I was thinking we have only got the freedom because of them and I thought why don’t the town council give them the freedom of Longridge?”

She then met Gerard Rogerson, who has been awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, recognising the part he played in liberating our allies during the war.

The idea began to grow and after receiving the backing the the town council, councillors went in search of the veterans.

On Saturday, as everyone gathered in the sunshine outside the Old Station, it was poignant in that it was just a few feet from the town’s War Memorial honouring those who fell.

Pupils from the primary schools enjoyed talking to the veterans.