An international legacy flame symbolising unity and freedom is coming to Grantham on May 30 to commemorate the town’s role in a little-known World War Two operation to liberate Norway.
It’s the first time the Freedom Flame has visited the district and will help to celebrate Operation Doomsday when massed aircraft took off from RAF Barkston Heath in May 1945 carrying troops to accept the German surrender in Norway following VE Day.
St Wulfram’s Church hosts a morning of talks and a service of commemoration, organised by South Kesteven District Council as part of its promotion of local aviation heritage.
A new aviation exhibition opens in Grantham Museum on the same day, displaying ‘nose art’ so popular on the American aircraft that filled the skies over Grantham as part of allied airborne offensives.
Five Army reserves units will be recruiting on St Peter’s Green alongside the Royal British Legion and Barkston Heath Research Group. There will be photo opportunities of the Freedom Flame in the Abbey Gardens after the service.
Operation Doomsday was a three-day operation, when 80 American C-46 Curtiss Commando aircraft took off each day laden with men and supplies from the 1st Airborne Division, a new airborne infantry division of the British
Army that led to the formation of today’s Parachute Regiment.
Men of the Norwegian Parachute Company flew with 1st Airborne units to disarm and repatriate 350,000 German troops massed in Norway and expecting an allied invasion from Scotland thanks to a successful British deception exercise.
They landed at Oslo and Stavanger to look after Allied ex-prisoners of war, arrest war criminals and supervise the clearing of minefields.
Each Doomsday participant received a personal certificate from the King of Norway thanking them for their involvement.
The Freedom Flame was lit by Field Marshall Montgomery in 1948 as a symbol of peace and liberty and carried from Portsmouth to Bayeux in Normandy as the first town liberated in Europe.
Last May a sister flame was collected by Hull-based Normandy Veterans who comprise the UK Freedom Flame Committee, acting as its custodians and travelling the flame around the UK.
Talks start at 10am and are free. Aviation historian Group Captain Bill Taylor will trace the story of Operation Doomsday. Mike Fuller, vice-chair of Hull Freedom Flame, will relate its history.
A service of commemoration follows, with Parachute Regiment Association standards and wartime tribute singer Lizzy Rushby joining the church choir.
Steve Ingram, SKDC strategic director of economic growth and development said: “Ours is a district rich in aviation heritage and we are working to commemorate the commitment and sacrifice of the allies in airborne offensives flown from local airfields that changed the course of both World Wars.
“This is a highly significant milestone and we are proud to play a part in remembering a largely untold story of the victory in Europe. “
For district aviation history see www.heritageofflight.co.uk