AFTER they had bowed their heads, stood silently, listened to the prayers, citations and hymns, laid wreaths, and applauded the marchers, the crowds began to file away.

A few lingered a little longer, however, staying in Victoria Square, perhaps for a further period of reflection about loved ones no longer here or to share words of comfort with other bystanders.

Among those who remained on this Remembrance Sunday morning were the families and people from our town most deeply affected by the war in Afghanistan, a conflict that news programmes reminded us now stretches longer than the two World Wars combined.

Andy Reid, the soldier left a triple amputee following an IED explosion in 2009, and the family of Christopher Davies, the 22-year-old Irish Guardsman who died while on patrol two years ago.

Up until Sunday, Andy and Chris’ family had never met in person, so it was a touching moment to see them making a connection on such an emotional and important day.

It underlined that, now, more than ever, Remembrance Sunday in St Helens is a day of unity.

The words of Catherine Needle, Christopher’s mother, who praised the town “for coming together brilliantly” summed it up perfectly.

Among the thousands in the crowds, which appear to grow year on year, are faces from across the generations – from old timers to tots, many there as families.

Many of those faces have different stories for why they are there. Some will have been paying tribute to parents or grandfathers, others to comrades friends. But the unifying force is their will to remember.

For Christopher’s family, who included his daughter Lucy, they take comfort from the support of townspeople.

Catherine added: “The turnout was tremendous - there were so many people. Days like this are difficult, as are many others, but we are thankful that everyone continues to support us.”

For former Corporal Reid, in his first Remembrance Day since leaving the forces, his thoughts turned to comrades lost after a particularly traumatic year for the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment in which he served.

He said: “It is a day when I think a lot about friends who are no longer here and it makes me realise how lucky I am to be here today.

“Their memory gives me strength and makes me feel I have to keep moving forward in their honour.”