by New Worker correspondent
HUNDREDS of people gathered in London and Manchester last Friday, 9th May to mark the end of the Second World War in Europe, the surrender of Nazi Germany and the huge sacrifice made by the people of the Soviet Union and especially the Red Army to bring about that defeat.
In London the event took place at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, adjoining the Imperial War Museum in Southwark, with the highest attendance for many years – several hundred were present.
Russian Ambassador HE Yury Fedotov and ambassadors from other former Soviet states attended, along with Councillor Bob Skelly, local MP Simon Hughes, Defence Services Secretary Major General Matthew Sykes, Bob Wareing MP who represented the House of Commons, the French Ambassador and the staff of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund (SMTF).
The Arctic War Veterans and the Russian Convoy Club were, as usual, present in force, along with many British Legion veterans, the International Brigade, the RAF Russia Association and the Merchant Navy Association.
SMTF chair Philip Matthews gave a short speech, followed by Yury Fedotov, Simon Hughes and Bob Skelly, who reminded those present of the magnitude and significance of the role of the Red Army in defeating Nazism.
He said he keeps a model of the memorial in his office and explains its importance to visiting parties of schoolchildren.
Then Bob Skelly led the wreath-laying, followed by Major General Matthew Sykes, Simon Hughes, all the ambassadors present and representatives of all the veterans’ associations, the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies, the Evacuees Reunion Association, VTB bank, the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, Vneshecnonobank, London Region Ucatt, Len Aldis of the British-Vietnam Friendship Society, the Communist Party of Britain, the Marx Memorial Library and the Russian Embassy School. Daphne Liddle laid flowers on behalf of the New Communist Party.
Then Philip Matthews invited anyone else who wished to come forward and lay flowers – and dozens did so, including many young people. When they had finished the entire surface area of the memorial – about five metres by two – was carpeted in flowers.
This was followed by the Last Post and a two-minute silence. The exhortation “They shall not grow old…” was read in English and Russian – and then Reveille.
Then Yury Fedotov invited those present to nearby marquees to drink a toast “To Victory”, with drink and food provided by the Russian Embassy.
photo: Daphne Liddle presents the NCP tribute to the memorial