IT was a great honour this morning to lay a wreath on behalf of the readers of The Northern Echo at the feet of the statue of war hero Andrew Mynarski.
This was my speech:
"A decade years ago, a debate was raging about what this airport should be called. Teesside Airport was no longer thought to be suitable.
As the debate went on, The Northern Echo received a letter from Betty Amlin, suggesting it would be much better to call it Mynarski Airport in memory of “The Forgotten Hero” Andrew Mynarski.
In truth, the airport was never going to be called Mynarski Airport. The authorities had already made up their minds that it should be Durham Tees Valley Airport. But Betty’s letter reignited the story of Mynarski. How he had sacrificed his own life during a bombing mission to save a friend. How he had never been properly recognised for his heroism. The Forgotten Hero.
We couldn’t realistically demand that Mynarski Airport should replace Teesside Airport. But we could do something else to remember him. We could campaign to have a statue made.
Andy Mynarski’s story was told and re-told in the pages of The Northern Echo. Our readers dug deep into their pockets. They were joined by people in Canada. By chance, a sat next to a man on a train who turned out to be in charge of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North-East. I told him about our Forgotten Hero and a grant for tens of thousands of pounds was the result.
In the end, we raised £76,000. The statue was commissioned and, on the fourth of June, 2005, it was unveiled in one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever seen. The unveiling was performed by Colleen Bacon, the daughter of Pat Brophy, the man Andy Mynarski had battled to save.
When a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over that day, tears came to my eyes and a lump to my throat. And I know I wasn’t alone.
They money we had left over was donated to Middleton St George Primary School which had been devastated by an arson attack two years earlier. It bought the pupils books and equipment.
It was a special day and today is a special day too. Thank you all for coming to remember not just the sacrifice of one man – but the sacrifice of a generation who should never be forgotten."