THE Second World War was brought to Teesdale as part of a commemorative event to mark VE day. An exhibition at St Mary’s Parish Hall, in Barnard Castle, included photos, displays about the home front, and replica models of Second World War planes.
Re-enactors brought a Battle of Britain operations room to life while visitors also had the chance to see two 1943 Willys jeeps, which were the same models used by thousands of servicemen as they landed on the Normandy beaches during D-Day.
One of the visitors to the exhibition was war veteran Joe Swinbank, 99, who was one of those driving a Willys jeep during the landings in June 1944.
Iris Hillery, who helped organise the event with her husband Allan Jones, said: “We had a steady turnout all day and all the people who came have shown a lot of interest and spent a lot of time looking around. The photos are fantastic and people have been sharing their own memories which I’ve really enjoyed hearing. We’ve managed to show a lot of different aspects of the war and we’ve been raising money for the British Legion.”
Mr Jones, who was dressed in RAF uniform, was among several re-enactors who explained how servicemen and women would have plotted the Battle of Britain in the operations room. He said: “I’ve been doing this for seven or eight years and slowly built up a scenario. Initially it was very hard to get my head around. The people doing it in the war must have been under tremendous pressure. It’s been a good day. People have been asking a lot of questions and the older generation have been very good at things like identifying the planes. It’s been worth putting it on to ensure that people remember.”
The Last Post was played at 3pm, which was followed by a two-minute silence.
A total of £1,350 was raised for the charity through donations and ticket sales for a concert in the evening. The money will go to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
Barnard Castle Band entertained about 150 people with music from the era. Crowds then watched Durham County Council’s chairman John Robinson light a beacon outside St Mary’s Church – one of 100 across the country.
Barnard Castle town mayor Cllr John Blissett also led a tribute to the fallen. He said: “It’s been brilliant. It’s a good tribute and for me it’s the icing on the cake for my year as mayor. This is my last civic event and what a climax it is.”
(Teesdale Mercury, 12 May 2015)