Laughton remembers its heroes

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On August 16, 1945 Laughton families celebrated the Allied victory in World War II at a service in the Parish Church.

And next Sunday, August 18 - almost exactly 70 years on - that same service will be recreated. Reading the lessons and psalms will be descendents of the original readers, many of whom will travel to the village from across the UK to take part.

Peter Waring from Common Lane told the Express: “While researching and writing a book on Deanland Airfield used by many Allied aircraft I found a service sheet from that date. On it were names of the people who had taken part and I thought it would be wonderful to ask their children or grandchildren to recreate those roles - that is if I could find them.

“I thought people would probably be pleased to hear about the service if they were interested enough in history to sign the church’s visitors’ book. I wrote more than 70 letters and was amazed at the response.

“In many cases we have direct descendents or very close associates reading their ancestors’ lessons and psalms. In others - for example in place of General Henty, who died childless - we have the son of a special forces Major General Houghton who was on the Parish Council and PCC and did an enormous amount for the village. We also have former vicar Roger Kenward who was in the RAF and is now involved with All Saints, Old Heathfield. There’s a whole battalion of Shoosmiths coming along too - a real Sussex name.”

The service and music will be identical to that 70 years ago.

After the service, visitors can enjoy a traditional tea in the village hall complete with bunting and wartime dishes including popular jam tarts which would have contained preserves from fruit grown in gardens. Everyone is welcome.

Mr Waring described how a dozen USAF B17 bombers landed at Laughton’s Deanland Airfield in 1944 - low cloud cover meant they had to land at the nearest airfield. One plane crashed, running out of fuel as the pilot tried to avoid a bomber on the ground. The airfield was also the take-off point for Belgian Pilot Officer Eugene Seghers. At 2.22pm, July 26, 1944 PO Seghers deflected a V1 rocket with the wing of his RAF Spitfire. The rocket exploded killing PO Seghers but saving the town from destruction. At exactly the same time on July 26 last year a permanent memorial to him was unveiled in Ridgewood.

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