Slideshow: History brought to life at Grantham’s D-Day commemoration event

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Flypasts by Dakota and Spitfire aircraft were highlights of the D-Day commemoration event in Grantham on Saturday, despite the rain.

The town centre event was packed with activities and attractions to entice families, organised by South Kesteven District Council.

A fly-past at the D-Day event.

A fly-past at the D-Day event.

There was music broadcast across St Peter’s Hill by Second World War tribute singers Miss Sarah Jane and Ricky Hunter, before the afternoon flypast of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota and Spitfire aircraft which circled for a second flypast.

The green on St Peter’s Hill underwent a nostalgic make-over with vintage vehicles, stalls and a field kitchen from Grantham College. College students served more than 200 portions of rabbit stew and fried more than 80 Spam fitters to evoke wartime memories and add to their NVQ restaurant and kitchen qualification.

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, partner in producing the new South Kesteven District Council Heritage of Flight publications, sold as many aviation leaflets as they achieve at the Waddington Air Show.

Barkston Heath Research Group discovered new stories in its quest to unlock the airfield’s wartime past, and hundreds of people visited Grantham Museum for the first day of its ‘Grantham Delivering D-Day’ summer exhibition.

American Air Attache Colonel Travis Willis of the United States Air Force recalled how bad weather actually delayed D-Day by 24 hours, a frustrating wait for the thousands of British and American airborne forces waiting to take off from airfields surrounding Grantham.

Colonel Willis added his own comments to a Grantham Museum talk by Group Captain Bill Taylor on the role of local airfields.

He also presented the first copies of Heritage of Flight booklet to two local men – Terry Musson, who shares research with his son Mark for their online Barkston Heath forum, and Ray Bennett, who has vivid memories of the American occupation of Saltby airfield from when his parents kept the pub at Sproxton.

Colonel Willis said: “We all know the story about World War Two but it’s the local stories that really give a flavour of the events of the time.

“These are precious memories to capture. It gives a great sense of nostalgia to see where history was made. It was made from people just doing their jobs, doing their best and doing the right thing in a very bad situation, fighting tyranny. A lot of kids came here from all over the world and did wonderful things.

“From January 1944 to D-Day the Americans really doubled the number of troops here in England from 770,000 to 1.2 million. That’s an interesting figure, as there are about one million Americans living here today.”

Coun Bob Adams, portfolio holder for leisure, arts and culture at SKDC, said: “To realise the great sacrifices made by the people of Grantham and the tremendous co-operation of the allied forces, particularly our American guests, in achieving what we achieved is quite emotive and quite emotional. I think the Grantham Museum exhibition is absolutely first class and I am confident that our new publications will attract visitors to the area.”

Phil Bonner, from Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, praised SKDC’s new Heritage of Flight publications. He said: “It’s the first time we have had something to really raise the profile and tell the true story of South Kesteven’s role in the D-Day airborne landings. It’s very important and it’s almost like the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.”