VETERANS and senior naval officers have praised the incredible community spirit of Portchester after hundreds of people rallied to join the town’s biggest-ever Remembrance service.
About 300 people packed into Portchester precinct to witness the emotional ceremony, which saw wreaths being laid at the war memorial.
Traditionally held on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday, organisers of this year’s tribute have said it was the biggest yet.
Royal Navy Commander Steven Shaw lives in Portchester and once again coordinated the spectacle.
He said: ‘The turnout is the biggest one we have ever had. It really demonstrated the community of the people of Portchester and the support and respect they have for Remembrance.
‘It was incredibly uplifting to see the veterans in the parade, who all had a light in their eye as they marched through Portchester. This means everything to them.’
Blissful sunshine warmed the crowds as cadets paraded through the precinct.
A poem was read by Suella Braverman, Fareham MP, with hymns and readings following.
Portchester Community Choir provided the vocal performances throughout, before Fareham’s mayor, Councillor Susan Bayford, read the poem In Flanders Field.
Among those laying wreaths included Second World War veteran Shiela Burge.
The 91-year-old was part of the Women’s Royal Naval Service in the war, based in Scotland at the Fleet Air Arm’s base in Drem.
She said: ‘It was a great honour to be asked to lay a wreath. It meant so much.
‘The turnout was wonderful and I was especially impressed at how the little children behaved. There were absolutely marvellous.’
Rear Admiral Iain Henderson, vice lord lieutenant of Hampshire, was also impressed by the turnout.
The Falkland and Gulf War veteran said: ‘This was a superbly organised and very moving service.
‘I was delighted to see so many people turn out. What stood out for me were the youngsters at the ceremony.
‘They all looked jolly cold but they were all paying close attention to what was going on.
‘As a veteran, it means so much to myself, and the entire military community, to have the public support.
‘Portchester has done itself proud.’
The service lasted for about an hour and was led by Reverend Ian Meredith, vicar of St Mary’s church in Portchester.
He said: ‘This is the biggest Remembrance event I have ever seen here. I’m very proud of the whole Portchester community.’