20 June 2024

Region to honour heroes of D-Day

by Gazette Reporters

Beacons are being lit across our region and the country to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings – the Allied invasion that began the liberation of France in the Second World War and laid the foundations for victory in Europe.

Known as Operation Overlord, it was the culmination of years of planning, and those involved sailed, flew and stormed the beaches against incredible odds – more than 5,000 ships were used to land more than 150,000 troops in what was the largest amphibious operation in the history of warfare.

As part of the commemorations, Withernsea, Hornsea and Hedon will host a day packed with services and events, with beacons being lit at around 9.15pm, along with cities, towns and villages across the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly and UK overseas territories.

Withernsea’s Royal British Legion president, Darren England, said a number of local men were involved in D-Day and either died in the fighting or several months afterwards.

East Yorkshire Regiment; Lance Corporal 7895709 John Dunn, Royal Armoured Corps, 1st East Riding Yeomanry; Trooper 14261994 Harold Challis, Royal Armoured Corps, 13th/ 18th Royal Hussars; Trooper 7889763 William Robert Bilton fifth Royal Tank Regiment; and Private William Harold Barrick, 6th Battalion, Durham Light.

Darren said: “We have several members of the armed forces that landed on the beaches and died a few days or months later. We must remember these and all those that sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”

The commemorations in Withernsea were due to get under way at 8am on Thursday, June 6, with the Proclamation Reading at Pier Towers.

Between 10.15am and 11.30am, an American truck that landed on the beaches on D-Day is set to be on display at Memorial Gardens car park near the new war memorial. It will later head to Withernsea Primary School in the afternoon along with medal displays, bugler and standards for the pupils to look at.

At 11am a remembrance service, including wreath laying, will take place at the new war memorial, with refreshments available afterwards in the Meridian Centre.

Meanwhile, St Nicholas Church in Withernsea has planned a series of events from 10am to 4pm on June 6. Between 10am and 3pm, the church is open to visitors, with display boards inside detailing information about the soldiers who died.

At 4pm on June 6, Darren England is set to host a tour of the Commonwealth War Graves in the St Nicholas cemetery.

The day will conclude with the lighting of the beacon at around 9pm. Withernsea mayor Ian Blackburn will welcome everyone to the event before the ceremony begins and the beacon will be lit following the reading of the Nation’s Tribute at 9.15pm.

Darren added: “It’s so great that the town and the community are coming together to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. We have several things happening throughout the day, and it would be great to see how many will attend.”

“I would like to thank Withernsea Royal British Legion, Withernsea Town Council and Rev Clive Hall.”

Commemorations in Hedon were also getting under way at 8am on Thursday, June 6, with new mayor Colin Billany reading out the D-Day 80 Proclamation on Market Hill.

Later that day, 6.30pm the bells at St Augustine’s Church will ring out a Peal for Peace, before music from a pipe band at 7pm. The singing duo the Larks will capture the spirit and music of the 1940s, and the Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force Band will also perform before the lighting of the beacon.

The evening will conclude with the laying of a wreath and the lighting of the beacon on Market Hill by the mayor and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the East Riding.

Meanwhile, Hornsea museum’s 18th-century farmhouse and gardens recreated the 1940s era for a special open day last week.

Visitors were given free entry to parts of the museum and could explore some of its local artefacts. Exhibits revealed how the Second World War affected the local community as the area became home to thousands of soldiers.

Volunteers manned displays and shared information about the importance of the D-Day landings, as well as demonstrating the limitations of rations. Sue Rhodes, a museum volunteer on the day, said: “There wasn’t much – soldiers had to be resourceful.”

Shelly Musik has been volunteering at the museum for nine years. She said: “Trench cake was a nutritional recipe that made the most of the rations.”

Mother-of six Mrs Sanderson, of Hornsea, was 13 when war was declared. Now 98, she said: “We came here from Glasgow in 1941 because my husband was relocated to the shipyards. I didn’t want to come, but my mother said, ‘You stay with your husband.’”

Hairdressers Anna, Julie and Patricia were enjoying watching lindyhop dancers with Mrs Sanderson.

“They came with me. The singing is good, and the museum is nice,” Mrs Sanderson said of the entertainment provided by Ultimate Tribute singer, Cherié Lawrence.

Volunteers and researchers from Hornsea Civic Society displayed photographs from the 1940s, including St John’s nurses and visits to the town by Winston Churchill. Other photographs showed how Hornsea residents were affected by the war.

John Miller, chairman of the Civic Society, said: “In 1942, Hornsea district sponsored HMS Whimbrel. The target was £5,500 but in the end the Hornsea district raised over £15,000 – that’s around £9.2 million in today’s money.”

HMS Whimbrel, built by Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow, is currently in dry dock in Egypt. The warship is the only remaining Royal Navy warship to have been present at the Surrender of Japan in the Second World War.

John added: “Whimbrel Avenue in Hornsea is named after the ship the town sponsored.”

As well as concrete pillboxes to protect the coastline, other landmarks in Hornsea include a rare memorial to the Free French soldiers garrisoned in the town during the war. The seaside town maintains connections to La Grande Motte to this day via the Town Twinning project.

The museum’s war exhibition and displays are open to the public until November 3.

Elsewhere in the region, Seaton Village Hall is hosting a D-Day anniversary celebration on Sunday, June 9, from 2pm until late.

It will feature live music by Lily Hope and Mr Dodds’s private tank collection. Admission is free, and people are invited to bring their own food, drink, chairs and tables.