COMMUNITIES across the New Forest are preparing to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day with appeals to residents to come forward with memories and mementos of the time.
The effort is to bring to life ceremonies which are planned in May this year to celebrate the end of the Second World War in Europe in 1945.
In New Milton a series of events is being held around the town, with the main attraction being the major VE75 Party on the Clifftop in Marine Drive, Barton, running from 2pm to 9pm on the bank holiday Friday 8th May.
This will feature parades, exhibitions, a veterans’ afternoon tea, live entertainment and beacon lightings, culminating in a fireworks display.
A specially written concert, We’ll Meet Again, will also be staged at New Milton Memorial Centre, off Whitefield Road, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd May.
Organisers on the New Milton Residents’ Association (NMRA) believe their commemorations – under the banner New Milton Remembers – will be the south coast’s largest for VE75.
The events are benefiting from £2,500 in town council funding and £2,000 from Hampshire county councillors and other sponsors.
Money will be raised for SSAFA – the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – and the Royal British Legion New Milton branch.
NMRA chairman Alan Watson said: “We believe this will be the largest community VE75 commemoration on the south coast because almost everybody else is doing a one-off anniversary event.”
Organisers are appealing for more local veterans to join around 50 already taking part. As well as those who served in the armed forces or other auxiliary services such as the Home Guard and Women’s Land Army during the Second World War, these include veterans from other conflicts and those still serving.
Those who come forward will be given VIP treatment with a special veterans’ afternoon tea party at Barton Methodist Church Hall. They will also be invited to take part in the special ceremonies taking place on the clifftop at 3pm and 8.40pm.
Villagers in neighbouring Bashley are also inviting relatives of veterans and the fallen of WW2 to a morning of commemorations for 28 servicemen on Friday 8th May at St John the Baptist church, off St John’s Road.
Former tourism worker and Army Reservist John Adams, of Bashley Cross Road, is keen for family members to join in. He will be playing the bagpipes during the 10am service when the names on two memorial plaques – one for each world war – will be read out.
“It brings it all alive,” Mr Adams told the A&T. “It’s not just plaques in the corner – it’s something that comes alive and is very pertinent in people’s lives.”
As well as the Bashley service, he will be playing during a special service taking place at St Mary Magdalene’s church in New Milton on Sunday 10th May.
In Fordingbridge the town’s museum wants reminiscences and artefacts from the original celebrations there on 8th May 1945, which included a parade and ringing of church bells and a bonfire.
A modern day event this year will also be held on Friday 8th May at the recreation ground, organised by the town council and the Fordingbridge Events Committee.
Historical materials will be put on display and some will be used for an exhibition at the museum in Salisbury Street.
The attraction’s manager, Jane Ireland, said: “This was a big event in Fordingbridge in 1945 and there must be people who can remember the celebrations or may even have photographs of the events.
“We are particularly interested in making some short oral recordings of what people can remember, so do ask relatives, friends or neighbours to see if they could contribute.”
Those who can help should call the museum on 01425 654322 or 01425 657850.
For more information about events being planned in New Milton for both VE75 and VJ75 call 07712 569016 or visit www.newmiltonremembers.co.uk.