Acting as a volunteer story gatherer for the BBC "People's War" project
As part of the official commemorations of the 60th Anniversary of the Allied victory in WW2 my home county of Cumbria (NW England) held a special weekend of events between 24 and 26 June 2005. The central feature of this was a 'Victory Parade' of more than 1000 veterans. While most of these were from Cumbria, the parade also included current bands of the Royal Marines, RAF, Naval Cadets, Army bands etc.
Over the weekend there was also a 'World War Two' flypast by some wartime aircraft, wartime songs and music on a central stage and different exhibitions by the Army, RAF, Royal Marines and the Navy. Among these was the RAF Display Team 'The Red Arrows' who put on a display immediately after the 'Victory Parade' had finished. The photograph shows me in front of one of the 'Red Arrow' aircraft that was on public view throughout the weekend. As can be seen from the photograph, the sun always shines and there are always blue skies in Cumbria during the summer months!
During the course of the weekend I was one of a team of volunteer helpers publicising the BBC "People's War" project. This involved giving out forms and collecting wartime memories that were later published to the "People's War" website. The BBC Local Radio Station (Radio Cumbria) had a special area set aside in an exhibition tent for the "People's War" so those with wartime memories could see what it entailed. Many wartime accounts from people with memories of the war years were obtained as a result of this weekend. It was a great honour to listen meet so many people who had played their own small part during the war years leading to final victory.
For many of the veterans who attended the weekend and took part in the 'Victory Parade' it was a tremenedous opportunity to meet many former comrades, honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and remember many of the good times they spent together in difficult circumstances. It also gave those of us born after WW2 the chance to thank and to honour our forebears in their own homeland. In recent years, some of the veterans had taken part in marches overseas in places where they had served, such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Italy, with cheering crowds showing their gratitude for liberating their homeland. On this occasion, perhaps for the first and last time, the veterans were able to see how much the sacrifices they had made so long ago really did mean to their own families and friends back home.
A great occasion and a great 'Thank You' to everyone of the wartime generation! I hope this article gives at least a small impression of a tremendous weekend of Remembrance.