Members of 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron Air training Corps joined hundreds of people who lined the streets of Bedworth to pay an emotional farewell to ex-Royal Marine Frank Parsons who lost his last battle at the age of 89.
For a quarter of a century Frank Parsons, ex-Royal Marine and war hero, was the leader and inspiration behind the Bedworth November 11th Armistice Day Parade which has become one of the borough's most cherished traditions.
Bedworth is the only town in Britain to have continually observed two minutes silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the day hostilities ceased to end the First World War. At one time, only a handful of people gathered around the War Memorial in Coventry Road Cemetery, but thanks to Frank, it’s now the biggest event of its kind in the country.
Tributes have poured in for the man who served in the Special Boat Service during the Second World War and was captured by the Japanese in a midget two-man submarine while attaching limpet mines to battleships in Singapore Harbor after which he was held in the torture cells in the notorious Changi Prison in Singapore.
Gil Leach, chairman of the Bedworth Armistice Day Parade Group, said: "Frank was an icon. He took over the Armistice Day Parade when it had declined in the 80s and put it back on the map. He worked unbelievably hard until it was recognised by government and by royalty and was known throughout the country. It was Frank's parade, it was his life."
Korean War veteran and ex-Royal Marine Commando Jesse Owen, who was the parade standard marshal, said: "The effort he put into the Armistice Day Parade was phenomenal. It brought Bedworth to a standstill. People came from all over the country and many parts of the world because of the coverage it received from newspapers and television”.
During the funeral service, Bedworth's parish church was packed with old soldiers displaying the medals they wear on November 11th for the Armistice Day Parade that meant so much to Frank.
Following the service, his coffin draped in the union flag with his beloved Royal Marines beret, his medals, and a wreath of poppy red roses on top was carried out of the church through an archway of service association standards which included that of the Air Cadets from 121 Squadron, to his horse-drawn hearse.
As he set out on his final journey through the streets of the town, spontaneous applause broke out among the people - a moving tribute to a man whose legacy will live on.
Following the service Flight Lieutenant Ian Crewe Officer Commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron said, “ Frank Parsons did an excellent job in keeping the Bedworth Armistice Day tradition alive and was the driving force behind making it the largest parade of its type outside of London. Frank made the Bedworth Armistice Day parade something that would involve everyone within the community and from our perspective he was determined to include the younger generation, Cadets, Scouts and school children. The young people of 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron along with other squadrons from within the Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing of the Air Training Corps will continue the tradition of observing the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in Bedworth and in doing so, Frank’s legacy will live on."