In pictures: Wittering residents mark 80 years since D-Day with beacon lighting

Residents, dignitaries, business owners and armed forces veterans alike came out in droves yesterday (June 06) to mark 80 years since the D-Day landings; a watershed moment in the nation’s remembrance of the Second World War.

For many World War Two veterans, this may well be the last significant act of Remembrance in their life time, and so this year’s beacon lighting was appropriately auspicious.

Taking place near Downsview Hall, and organised by East Wittering and Bracklesham Parish Council in cooperation with the Women’s Institute (WI), celebrations started at 7pm, and was followed shortly afterwards by a dramatic Spitfire flypast, in a poignant echo of the bravery showed by World War Two pilots all those years ago.

Tea, coffee and cake served before a poignant recitation of the World War Two poem ‘Tommy’, and children were invited to lay a hand-knitted poppy in a touching display of remembrance.

After a number of speeches, introductions and a moment of silence for the fallen, the beacon was lit at 9.15pm, joining those lit by communities across the UK, the Isle of Wight and the Commonwealth.

A spokesperson for the event said: “It’s sobering to acknowledge that the occasion may well mark one of the final opportunities for those who fought in World War II to personally participate in such commemorations. With the passage of time, the ranks of these brave veterans inevitably diminish, underscoring the urgency of cherishing their presence and honouring their sacrifices while we still can.

“As custodians of their legacy, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that their stories are remembered, and their contributions never forgotten. As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of this historic campaign, we honour their memory and pledge to never forget their selfless service and enduring legacy of freedom.”

Eighty years from the fact, D-Day remains the biggest amphibious invasion in world history, involving more than 156,000 men, several thousand ships and planes, all deployed across five beaches in Northern France to break the German defensive line. Despite heavy casualties on both sides, the success of the landings kickstarted the Allied liberation of Europe.

A similar ceremony is set to take place as part of the Sunday service in St Mary’s Church Petworth, including the town band and a wreath-laying ceremony.