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Military marches through time
WE'VE always been good at pageantry in this country – just look at last week’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
In a city such as York, with its army connections, a great deal of that pageantry has often been to do with the military.
Retired railwayman Bryan Thornton remembers his childhood, just after the Second World War, when attending military parades was a real day out for the whole family.
The 73-year-old, who now lives in Bishophill, remembers going several times as a young lad between the ages of six and eight or so.
He has always assumed they were Military Sunday parades that he witnessed, although York historian Hugh Murray believes those came to an end with the war. He thinks the parades Bryan attended may well have been peace parades to mark the end of the war.
Whatever they were, Bryan recalls, they were a “real day out when you were a young ’un!”
Everyone would be in their Sunday best – and the streets would be lined with cheering onlookers.
“You would be overawed by all the soldiers marching past,” he said.
“I remember watching all these people coming around the Minster and marching down Blake Street. It was unbelievable.”
In later life Bryan, who worked as a railway fireman and then at the carriageworks, became an inveterate collector of old postcards of York. He has travelled up and down the country in pursuit of his hobby, and now has a collection that runs into the hundreds if not thousands – all with a connection to York.
The postcards we reproduce on these pages today come from Bryan’s collection – and they all show Military Sunday parades that took place in the first two decades of the 20th century, 30 years or more before the parades Bryan remembers.
Military Sunday was a tradition that was begun by York’s Dean Purey Cust in 1885 to commemorate the death of General Gordon of Khartoum, Mr Murray says.
The first Military Sunday parade in York was on April 19, 1885. Thereafter, they were held every year, usually in April or May, until the Second World War. All the regular and territorial forces based in the city would parade together through the city centre, in what was a magnificent display of the might of empire, a commemoration of those whom had given their lives – and a symbol of York’s importance as a military city.
The parades are a part of York’s history that Bryan is only too happy to share with readers, through these wonderful postcards. “I hope people enjoy them,” he said.
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If you have old photographs or documents you would like to share with us, either send copies, or phone Stephen Lewis on 01904 567263 or email email@example.com