THEY served in the army, navy and air force, but also in the munitions factories, down the coal mines and on the buses. . .
And on Friday (June 6), Littlehampton honoured 30 veterans of the Second World War, service and civilians alike, taking part in a remarkable afternoon at the town’s Look & Sea visitor centre, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Treated to a tea party at the centre, they shared their stories with each other and also with 16 pupils from the nearby River Beach Primary School, who listened to their accounts of life on the frontline and the home front with respect, attention and, at times, amazement.
The event, organised by Look & Sea’s trustees, staff and volunteers, came at the end of a week in which the centre also had a special wartime menu including boiled beef and carrots, mutton hot pot and spotted dick with custard, served by waitresses dressed as Wrens.
Trustee Peter Hussey said it had been a privilege to hear the veterans’ recollections of the war, adding: “We owe them a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they made.”
Susan Pyper, Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, also spoke of the ‘inestimable debt’ owed to the veterans, whether they were involved in the D-Day invasion or played other roles at home. On behalf of Look & Sea, she presented a commemorative badge to each of the veterans.
During the morning, a further 90 River Beach pupils, all studying the Second World War as a project, visited the centre to see special displays and hear talks on Littlehampton’s role both in the war and D-Day itself.
Students from The Littlehampton Academy interviewed and filmed three of the guests who served in the armed forces and described their wartime experiences, which will become part of the town’s archive, enabling future generations to hear the first-hand accounts.
River Beach pupil Luke Wharton, 11, felt ‘really honoured’ to have talked with the veterans. “To me, they were more than brave, they were superhuman. If they hadn’t fought, we might not be here today.
“Normally, children see older people as not being very interesting, but when you hear their stories, they are really interesting.”
Lucie Cathcart, 11, also from River Beach, admitted the day had changed the way she thought about older people, too. “To talk to some of them who were there on D-Day or just after makes you realise how brave they were.”