D-Day veteran, Spitfires and Red Arrows to mark 70th anniversary of Normandy landings

Spitfire Newtown Park

Published Wednesday 28 May 2014

A 92-year-old D-Day veteran from the United States will travel to the New Forest to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings along with World War II fighter planes and the Red Arrows.

The event hosted by Charles Burnett III at Newtown Park near Lymington will be open to the public from 3pm on 7 June. There will be a display of several old WWII warbirds including two Spitfires, a Hurricane, Harvard and Piper Cub along with a collection of military vehicles.  Spectators can enjoy a full 21-minute Red Arrows display starting at 5.30pm.

Veteran Herb Simmons was stationed at Lymington Advanced Landing Ground in the build up to D–Day and is believed to be the last surviving member of the 50th Fighter Squadron.

Mr Simmons, from North Carolina, will unveil a new information panel produced by the New Forest Remembers World War II project. It will be based at the Lymington airfield, which was one of five advanced landing grounds - or temporary airfields - built in the New Forest to support the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Four of those five were used by the American Army Air Force.

Despite their temporary nature these were not just little landing strips. Typically each landing ground had two mile-long runways and each of the four American bases had 75 Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bombers and 1,000 airmen.

The summer of 1944 was the peak period for the New Forest Airfields, when virtually all the twelve airfields had a role in the invasion. The New Forest was well positioned to support operations over Normandy, since it is more or less opposite the invasion beaches and the marine supply routes to those beaches. The fighter bombers had a minimum distance to fly to and from their target or patrol areas.

Like most of his fellow airmen, Mr Simmons was in his early twenties when he was stationed at Lymington and he would have slept under canvas. He also remembers the great kindness and generosity of the people of Lymington who would bring fresh fruit and vegetables to he and the other soldiers.

John Levesley, Education Officer for Friends of the New Forest Airfields said:  'Most of the airmen had never been outside of the USA before. Many were from cities and found life in rural wartime England a cultural shock. They had to improvise many of the facilities they needed, including showers. When the advanced landing grounds first opened some even lacked mains power and telephones and telegrams were sent to local post offices for delivery to the airfields.'

By early May 1944, most of the deficiencies were made good, the experience had become more familiar and comfortable and combat operations commenced for most units on 1 May, 1944.

Gareth Owen, Education and Outreach Officer for the New Forest Remembers World War II project run by the New Forest National Park Authority, said: 'Like many sites in the New Forest that are now quiet and tranquil places this airfield once throbbed to the sounds of aircraft and aircrews during and including the run up to D-Day.  

'The WWII secrets of the New Forest are still coming to light with a growing interest by the public. The new Interactive Portal, an online archive of the New Forest during WWII, is now helping to tell these untold stories. Events like this one at Newtown Park help raise the awareness of the sacrifices made to give us the liberties we have today. We should not forget them.'

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/wwii to visit the New Forest Remembers World War II project’s interactive portal.

The 70th anniversary D-Day event will be held at Newtown Park, Snooks Lane, Portmore, Lymington, SO41, 5SF. All proceeds will go to Help for Heroes. Entrance £5 per person on foot, £10 per group in car.  Email info@newtownpark.org.uk

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Picture caption: A Spitfire at Newtown Park

Notes to Editor:

For press enquiries please contact organizer Richard Channell on 0771 307 8541 or by email richard.channell@newtownpark.org.uk

About New Forest Remembers World War II Project

The New Forest Remembers World War II Project is a Heritage Lottery Fund project. It is hosted by the New Forest National Park Authority, and supported by a wide range of organisations, including ExxonMobil and English Heritage, both financially and through staff time.

The project is carrying out essential archaeological surveying of part of the New Forest National Park including an airborne infra-red Lidar survey (light detection and ranging), mapping work and field surveys.

An outreach programme is being designed to encourage local communities, groups and organisations to get involved. Teaching resources and educational activities will also be developed to link World War II archaeology with the National Curriculum.

If you have your own story for the New Forest Remembers Project, you can contact the team at 01590 646600, email archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk or write to New Forest Remembers, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

For more information about the New Forest Remembers World War II Project go to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/wwii


About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

• Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.

• Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

• Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

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