AJEX RE­MEM­BER­ING THE FALLEN

Af­ter the Paris terror at­tacks, vis­it­ing ex-ser­vice­men take com­fort in the sup­port shown to them dur­ing the re­mem­brance march in White­hall

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY NAOMI FIRSHT — French war vet­eran Ja­cob Cohen

LESS THAN 48 hours af­ter the Paris terror at­tacks, a French con­tin­gent of Jewish war veter­ans re­ceived a warm wel­come in White­hall as they joined the an­nual pa­rade of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Jewish Ex-Ser­vice­men and Women.

Among the vis­it­ing group was Parisian Ja­cob Cohen, 89, who said he had been moved by the “huge amount of sup­port” from marchers and those watch­ing the pa­rade.

“While we were stood in the square be­fore the march, strangers were com­ing up to us to say ‘my con­do­lences’, as if it were mem­bers of our fam­ily. They said: ‘You know we share in this with you — we are sad too.’

“Around 30 peo­ple came up to us — young peo­ple, old women, ev­ery­one. We are very, very touched. The minute of si­lence too… the fact that Eng­land shares the pain with us in this way is touch­ing.”

Mr Cohen’s home is in the 10th ar­rondisse­ment, “not far from the at­tacks.The next day, Paris was a desert. There was no­body in the streets, no peo­ple, no cars. Places were shut out of sol­i­dar­ity. There were no young peo­ple laugh­ing. It’s sad.”

Mr Cohen, who served dur­ing the Al­ge­rian War in the late 1950s, said he had be­come an Ajex pa­rade reg­u­lar “out of re­spect for those sol­diers who died”. He and his Parisian com­rade, Gabriel At­te­lan, pointed out that it was part of a Franco-Bri­tish ex­change, as Ajex mem­bers at­tended the equiv­a­lent an­nual event or­gan­ised by the French ex-ser­vice­men’s or­gan­i­sa­tion at the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

Sol­i­dar­ity with France was ev­i­dent through­out the af­ter­noon. As the solemn marchers made their way to­wards the Ceno­taph, the Union Jack was flown at half-mast over the Min­istry of De­fence build­ing out of re­spect for the Paris vic­tims. Ajex chap­ters from around the coun­try were rep­re­sented, their lo­ca­tion iden­ti­fied by a sign held aloft at the head of each group. As the French veter­ans ap­proached the Ceno­taph, the crowd broke into ap­plause.

Jewish lieu­tenant colonel Si­mon Soskin of the Gre­nadier Guards com­manded t he pa­rade, the first in re-cent history where a serv­ing of­fi­cer rather than a vet­eran has ful­filled the role. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis led the me­mo­rial ser­vice.

One of the UK’s se­nior mil­i­tary men, Field Mar­shal

‘We are get­ting wide sup­port from dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the com­mu­nity’ — Ajex’s Ron Shel­ley

Lord Guthrie, took the salute as re­view­ing of­fi­cer. Ad­dress­ing the 1,000-plus marchers and hun­dreds of spec­ta­tors, he stressed “how mar­vel­lous it is to see the French here. They stand for a na­tion which is not go­ing to sur­ren­der, is go­ing to re­main in­domitable and will carry on re­gard­less, ir­re­spec­tive of the atroc­i­ties which have hap­pened. And I think you set an ex­am­ple to the rest of the world of how to re­act, and not to over­re­act, to th­ese ter­ri­ble things which have hap­pened.”

At the tra­di­tional post-pa­rade tea at 8 Northum­ber­land Av­enue ho­tel, a minute’s si­lence was ob­served for the Paris vic­tims and ev­ery­one in the room joined in an emo­tional ren­di­tion of the French na­tional an­them, the Mar­seil­laise.

In his ad­dress, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: “How poignant it is that we are here to­day to recog­nise the ser­vices of the mil­i­tary af­ter the cat­a­strophic events of Paris on Fri­day night, from which we recog­nise how im­por­tant it is to pre­vent such atroc­i­ties from ever hap­pen­ing again.”

Ajex vice-pres­i­dent Ron Shel­ley was heart­ened by the high turnout, hav­ing feared some peo­ple might de­cide not to at­tend on se­cu­rity grounds af­ter the Paris at­tacks.

“It is most en­cour­ag­ing, the fact that now we are get­ting wide sup­port from dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the com­mu­nity. Part of our ob­jec­tive is to en­cour­age or­gan­i­sa­tions in the com­mu­nity to come and be with us be­cause we want this to de­velop into a communal re­mem­brance and a thanks­giv­ing.”

Trib­ute was paid to the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Bri­gade, which is both cele- brat­ing its 120th an­niver­sary and com­mem­o­rat­ing a cen­tury since the or­gan­i­sa­tion joined the war ef­fort. JLGB alumni ac­count for al­most a third of the Bri­tish Jews who died for their coun­try in the First World War. There are 535 names on the JLGB roll of hon­our of WWI dead.

JLGB chief ex­ec­u­tive Neil Martin said: “I think young peo­ple get a hard time but if you look around to­day you will see not only 150 JLGB young peo­ple but also grand­chil­dren march­ing with grand­par­ents in the pa­rade. The pa­rade would not have run to­day with­out the con­tri­bu­tion of the young­sters of JLGB.

“And each branch was swelled through the par­ents, chil­dren, and grand­chil­dren who sup­ported them. I think we could have more, ab­so­lutely. Ev­ery school, ev­ery youth move­ment should send a con­tin­gent.” Pupils from JFS and Yavneh Col­lege also took part in the pa­rade.

Air cadet Ben­jamin Rose, 17, had trav­elled from Bris­tol to march with his fa­ther, RAF chief tech­ni­cian Stu­art Rose. “It’s a time for us to re­mem­ber what has been,” Ben­jamin said. “I’m the only Jewish air cadet in my wing so to have a fam­ily here within Ajex is amaz­ing.”

Mr Rose, 45, said: “I’m very proud to have my son march­ing with me. I do the Ajex pa­rade be­cause I’m proud to be a Jewish ser­vice­man, which is a rare thing th­ese days. It’s im­por­tant peo­ple are aware that we are giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.”

Sis­ters Elaine and Laura Si­mons have marched for the past nine years in mem­ory of their fa­ther, who fought in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Elaine Si­mons, who came from Manch­ester to par­tic­i­pate, said: “It’s not only for his mem­ory. We think it is im­por­tant that the next gen­er­a­tion and the gen­er­a­tion af­ter that main­tain their sup­port.”

Her Lon­don­based sis­ter, Laura, added: “I think it’s about recog­nis­ing the sac­ri­fices peo­ple made. It’s really im­por­tant to con­tinue to do that and to show what the Jewish ser­vice­men did. I’m not wor­ried about the fu­ture of the pa­rade be­cause num­bers have in­creased over the past couple of years.”

The French con­tin­gent, which re­ceived a warm and

Field Mar­shall Lord Guthrie with Vice Ad­mi­ral Lord Ster­ling, pres­i­dent of Ajex

Field Mar­shal Lord Guthrie with Bushey JLGB’s Thea Fin­se­tone

‘The fact that Eng­land shares the pain with us is touch­ing’

PHO­TOS: JOHN RIFKIN/HENRY JA­COBS

sym­pa­thetic re­sponse from those lin­ing the route

And the band played on for Ajex marchers and their supporters

JLGB on pa­rade

Marchers came from all sec­tions of the com­mu­nity

Elaine and Laura Si­mons

Stan­dard bear­ers on their way to the Ceno­taph

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