As Big Ben struck 11am on November 11th, millions of people gathered at memorial services across the country to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday, and the Cenotaph in London saw wreaths laid to honour those who gave the greatest sacrifice for their country.
Among them was Lester (seen pictured on the left), a truly incredible gentleman who had travelled down from West Yorkshire accompanied by his family, and our carer Colin (right) with him all the way.
Serving Britain during World War II
Corporal Lester Hudson of the 77th Infantry Brigade is described by the Army as an “exemplary soldier”. As part of the Brigade, also known as the Chindits, Lester and 3 000 other soldiers underwent some of the toughest training that British troops had to endure in the jungles of Burma.
In 1943, Lester was part of a group of 400 soldiers who were tasked with infiltrating Japanese territory – a mission not for the faint-hearted. The brigade’s job was to attack roads, bridges, and supply depots for the Japanese forces as part of Operation Longcloth.
Lester played a key role in this operation, manning an anti-aircraft gun and giving the command to fire on enemy aircraft when they were in the right place for a strike. He was successful in bringing down several planes, an achievement that he takes immense pride in.
Later, in March 1944, Lester also served in a conflict named The Battle of Pagoda Hill; a brutal and bloody conflict which took the lives of many British service personnel. Lester himself took a bullet which passed right through his body and was airlifted to hospital. He and his Brigade were true assets to the British Army, enduring jungle sickness and starvation as well as being involved in some horrific battles in honour of their country.
Remembering fallen comrades
The sacrifices and bravery shown by Lester and his fellow service personnel over the years should always be remembered. Lester’s own brigade lost between a third and a half of their battalion in the conflicts, but we all owe them immense gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
Remembrance Day this year was especially poignant with it being the centenary of the Armistice, and it also marked 75 years since Operation Longcloth, in which Lester served so nobly.
Lester was keen to pay his respects at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, however he needed a little support as he has a stoma and restricted mobility after a knee operation, which could have made travelling all the way to London from West Yorkshire potentially difficult without the support of Colin his carer.
Desperate for him to have the opportunity to pay tribute to his fallen comrades, The Chindit Society contacted Helping Hands and our team in Shipley, close to Lester’s home, and put a plan together to make this happen.
A journey to honour fellow soldiers with a visiting carer
Colin, one of the carers working from our Shipley branch, was honoured to accompany Lester on the journey to the Remembrance Day service in London. Colin drove Lester some 200 miles all the way from West Yorkshire to the Dennison Army barracks in Thatcham near Reading the night before Remembrance Day, staying with him overnight to make sure he was comfortable and was ready for the day ahead.
In the morning, the new 77th Infantry Brigade took over Lester’s care and took to the Remembrance Parade in military vehicles – a fitting journey for an outstanding veteran. There, Lester joined his fellow veterans close to the Cenotaph and the laying of the wreaths.
Colin would then meet up with Lester again back at the Dennison Barracks to accompany him on the return journey all the way back up to West Yorkshire. The two of them had a wonderful time recalling the day during the journey and seeing the happy glint in Lester’s eye was just incredible for Colin to witness.
Making Remembrance Day special
Being able to help Lester pay his respects on Remembrance Day has been an emotional but hugely rewarding experience for Colin and the Shipley team. Having the chance to learn about our country’s history from such an inspirational gentleman they’ll treasure.
At the forefront of the operation to take Lester to London was Tracy, Colin’s manager at the Shipley branch. After a successful day, Tracy shared her own thoughts on a memorable day.
“What an incredible experience,” she told us. “Accompanying Lester on the journey to Remembrance Sunday was a proud moment for everyone here at the Shipley branch of Helping Hands and I can’t praise Colin enough for everything he’s done for Lester and his family. And seeing the pictures of the day really does pull at the heartstrings.”
From all of us here at Helping Hands, a huge thank you to Lester and his fellow servicemen and women, past and present, for their service. You are all credits to the Armed Forces who keep us safe.
Lest We Forget.