The Mayor of Harrogate has paid tribute to the hundreds of residents who turned out to honour VC Donald Bell during this month’s Freedom Parade.
On Tuesday, July 5, soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment marched through the centre of Harrogate as part of the ceremony honouring Mr Bell.
The Harrogate soldier, and first professional footballer to enlist in the British Army after the outbreak of the First World War, was award the Victoria Cross 100 years ago to the day of the ceremony.
A special commemorative stone was laid at the Cenotaph before the Mayor, Coun Nick Brown, read out a poem published in the Nidderdale Herald on July 26, 1916.
Coun Brown said it was an honour to watch the regiment march through Harrogate with family members of Mr Bell also in attendance.
He said: “I thought the parade was excellent. It really showed the good links between the Yorkshire Regiment and the Harrogate.
“But obviously, it was fantastic to be able to honour VC Donald Bell which is one of the main reasons we held it this year.
“It’s very important that any Victoria Cross holder is properly remembered as it is the highest military honour. It was great to see members of his family there as well as a great turn out from the people of Harrogate.
“I hope in the future the fantastic turnout does not change. The army and the military are so important for our defence as a county that we should be backing them 100 per cent.”
Despite the number of residents lining the streets as the Yorkshire Regiment marched through earlier this month, Coun Brown said he was “disappointed” by the number of councillors in attendance.
During the new mayor’s first full council meeting on Wednesday, July 20, Coun Brown revealed that only nine out of the 54 councillors across the borough were able to attend.
At the meeting, Coun Brown said: “Can I thank all those that were able to support the Yorkshire regiment in undertaking the Freedom Parade through Harrogate on July 5 to honour the Second Lieutenant Donald Bell who was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in the Somme 100 years ago.
“I have to say I was disappointed but fully understand some of the reasons that no more than nine councillors attended this event.”
However, Coun Brown said he could understand that the relatively low turn out was due, in part, to the number of young councillors who would have been in work during the parade.
Second Lieutenant Bell was awarded the VC, on July 5, 1916 for, as reported at the time, “conspicuous bravery” which was believed to have saved many lives.