A 99-YEAR-old Second World War veteran and former Japanese prisoner of war, helped lead Sunderland's Remembrance Service today.

Len Gibson read out the Far East Prisoner of War Prayer at the moving service just days after receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of his community and voluntary Service.

Mr Gibson was a member of the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when he was captured by the Japanese in 1942. He then became a POW on the Burma Death Railway before his liberation in 1945.

Hundreds of service personnel and veterans joined Mr Gibson and the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon as the city paid its respects.

The parade was led by The Royal Signals (Northern) Band and the Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band.

Units taking part included: 4th Regiment Royal Artillery (Sunderland's adopted regiment), The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and crew members from Sunderland's affiliated warship, HMS Anson.

Regimental Sergeant Major WOI Craig Hilton from the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery co-ordinated the parade. The 4th Regiment Royal Artillery also provided the largest contingent in the parade, along with two field guns fired from the terrace in Mowbray Park to signal the start of the two-minute silence at 11 am.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon, said: "Remembrance Sunday is an important opportunity for the whole city to come together to pay tribute to all those who fought in conflicts past and present, including those who gave up their lives for their country.

"It is equally important that we use this occasion to honour the servicemen and women of today and let them know how much we value what they do and appreciate the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

"As the proud father of a serving member of the armed forces, I know how much it means to our servicemen and women to know that we are behind them and support the valuable work they do."

The parade ended in a march past of veterans and serving members of Her Majesty's Forces with the salute taken by Colonel (Ret’d) Ann Clouston, OBE, ARRC, TD, DL, VR and the Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr David Snowdon from the steps of the Museum in Borough Road.

At 11am tomorrow, Monday 11 November, residents and visitors to the city are also being asked to pause for a two-minute silence to mark Armistice Day which signalled the end of the First World War in 1918.

Maroons will sound at 11am, and again at 11.02 from Mowbray Park to bring the observance to an end.

The event in Sunderland was one of hundreds taking part across the region yesterday. 

In South Tyneside, the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Councillor Norman Dick and Mrs Jean Williamson led the tributes.

The Mayor said: “These events are an opportunity for the community to come together for a quiet and dignified reflection to remember all those who have sacrificed so much for this country and salute those who are still serving today."