A SPECIAL ceremony has witnessed the laying down of the Airedale standard after nearly 50 years in existence.

Holy Trinity Church, in Skipton, hosted the ceremony, conducted by Royal British Legion chaplain Reverent Roger Lowens, where the standard of the Airedale Branch of the Airborne Forces Association was ceremoniously handed to the church for safe keeping.

It will hang beneath the tower to be seen by future congregations and church visitors.

The service was organised by the last Airborne branch veteran Richard Holmes, Marlene Sharkey, widow of the found, and the Skipton Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Veterans of the Parachute Regiment attended from many parts of the country, several parading their own branch standards which were joined by Legion Standards and other service organisations.

The Airedale branch came about over a pint in the early 1970s.

Conversations across the bar of the Brown Cow, in Bingley, with landlord Arthur Sharkey made him aware how many ex members of the Parachute Regiment and Aireborne Forces lived in the district.

Mr Starkey, an ex-member of 1 Para, arranged a meeting and the Airedale Branch of the Airborne Forces was born.

His widow, Marlene, said: “Ex paras came from all parts of the district, Ilkley, Shipley, Keighley, Addingham, and Skipton and the branch became established. Over the years members came and went and the meetings moved from Bingley to Silsden and finally Skipton. Sadly like many ex-military organisations membership declined due to deaths, age and new members were scarce. Eventually the branch had no option but to close.”

The standard, made by the wife of an Addingham member many years ago, has been a regular sight over the years at Remembrance Day Parades, VE and VJ Day and Armed Forces Day.

Mr Sharkey, the founder chairman, picked up the banner’ and proudly carried the standard on numerous occasions in recent years.

At his funeral service last year the standard was paraded along with those from other branches and military organisations.

“Now its work is done as there is nobody left who can carry on the tradition,” said Mrs Sharkey.”