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Dave Allen is one of the event organisers in conjunction with the Weymouth D-day Museum is very upbeat… “We have the full support of the council who are delighted that we can add more to the annual Veterans Day commemorations. There are dozens of re-enactment groups already booked in and following the sad demise of the Maiden Newton at War show – there was a general consensus that something should be done on a larger scale for the 70th anniversary of D-day.
Weymouth is the ideal location given its WWII history and for many of the re-enactment groups coming, it will be a unique opportunity to place their vehicles and equipment just as they were in the run up to D-day.
So many of the WWII units left from the quayside here and we have plans to make the town look very much as it did at the time. There will be lots for visitors to see including wartime searchlights, school children as wartime refugees, anti-aircraft guns around the town – not to mention Wardens and wartime policemen checking papers… and even a WWII hospital as it was in a church crypt. All across the town of Weymouth more things are being added weekly as groups sign up and there will other activities organised around the embarkation in Portland including a vehicle convoy. Alongside the Weymouth port there will be vehicles and even a running WWII LCVP Higgins Boat landing craft which is being filmed for a national TV network… and we are delighted to be able to help the community by working with the Pavilion to host a militaria show on the Saturday – all followed by a 1940’s dance in the evening.
“We have have had nothing but support from everyone we speak too. We are now even getting interest from the US newspapers and TV as the D-day anniversary is going to be comprehensively covered over there. We have also been speaking to the makers of a well known US chocolate bar for sponsorship and a US chewing gum manufacturer also loves the idea of getting involved”… Dave continues.
WWII Ranger veteran James Gabaree who left from the quayside near the Pavilion for the D-day assault on Omaha Beach is delighted. “We all loved our time in England in 1944 and were given such a warm welcome by everyone. It makes all the surviving Rangers proud to think that our time spent in Weymouth has not been forgotten. We wish this event well and hope it is a great success.”
Mr Gabaree a member of A Company of the 5th battalion US Army Rangers was one of the first to land on Omaha Beach in Normandy and he was twice wounded during the famous battle for Pointe du Hoc. He thinks it is unlikely that he will be able to attend the event, but he has not ruled it out. “I would love to come over again if I can. I have such fond memories of Britain at that time and I would love to involved – I know some of the other guys are considering coming over.”
“Weymouth at War” – will also include a re-enactment of the beach battle on the Saturday afternoon and this will be free for all to watch from the Esplanade. There is also talk of a flypast of wartime aircraft, parachute jumps etc. all still to be confirmed. Many local shops and businesses are taking part by offering “Wartime discounts” and plenty of “wartime spirit” to customers for the weekend. Businesses such as the Crows Nest Cafe in Hope Square will be turning back the clock and embracing the wartime atmosphere.
Cafe owner Rosie Farnworth thinks it will be great for the town. “We all know about the soldiers here during the war and its fantastic to think that we can remember them in this way. We are delighted to get involved and support this – it really is good for the whole town.”
The annual veterans day parade is traditionally the second busiest weekend of the year in Weymouth and it is thought that with the influx of extra visitors for Weymouth at War, it could well become the top event of next year.
A website is in preparation as we go to print ( www.weymouthatwar.co.uk ) and will be up and running shortly with full details. Meanwhile if you have a WWII vehicle, want to involve your school, promote your business by running something in your premises…. or you simply fancy getting involved, then why not contact the organisers on 01305 858411 or 07557 301155.