‘An amazing tribute from an amazing town’

The crowd forms the poignant words
The crowd forms the poignant words

THOUSANDS of people gathered on the beach on Saturday (June 7) to pay their respects to the fallen as part of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Residents, visitors and war veterans congregated on Pelham Beach to spell out the words, Lest We Forget, which was filmed from the air.

People were also treated to a special flypast by Hastings’ own Flight Lieutenant Antony Parkinson, MBE, - known as ‘Parky’ - who flew a Spitfire over the Hastings and St Leonards seafront.

Saturday’s commemorative event was organised by Roger Crouch, who teamed up with Global Special Events.

They both worked to bring the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) over to Hastings on Saturday.

The Royal Air Force flight comprises an Avro Lancaster, a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane. They regularly seen at events commemorating the Second World War.

Unfortunately the Lancaster was unable to take part in the aerial display because of a fault.

Mr Crouch said the aircraft was flying over the French coast on its way to 1066 Country when it developed a hydraulic leak.

It had to land at the nearest airfield which was in Caen in Normandy.

Despite this the crowds of spectators enjoyed a flypast from a Hurricane and by Flt Lt Parkinson’s Spitfire.

Wingwalkers also flew over the seafront in two 1930s biplanes.

Mr Crouch also worked with a group of students from Sussex Coast College to gather more than 1,000 people on Pelham Beach to form the words, Lest We Forget.

He said: “Parky put on an amazing display for his home town and he did Hastings proud. It was a wonderful atmosphere on the beach and in town.

“More than 1,000 people from all generations and ages formed the words, Lest We Forget, and a special thanks must go to my team of students from Sussex Coast College. Special mention should be made to Carlie Stace, who was absolutely fantastic working out all of the measurements for the letters.

“We spent four hours on Friday marking out some of the letters, as well as three hours on Saturday in rain.

“I am humbled by the students’ dedication and enthusiasm.

“I would like to thank Hastings Borough Bonfire Society marshals, the RNLI, Hastings Borough Council, especially Foreshore, the lifeguards, the police, fire service, Tech Events UK, Karma security, John Hough, from Priory Meadow, for his support and sponsorship, Saga, as well as everyone else.

“This tribute has been one of my proudest events I’ve organised.

“It’s all thanks to the wonderful public of Hastings and St Leonards. It was an amazing tribute from an amazing town.

“The veterans were there on Saturday with their standards and it was an honour to meet them. This day was for them and their comrades from that era.”

The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, during the Second World War.

The landings started on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6.30am.

The landings were conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, US and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France starting at 6.30am.

The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

To see aerial video footage of Saturday’s event visit http://youtu.be/2_Qv_lhYVvk.