60 Years On

VE Celebrations are Remembered The heroes of the Second World War donned their medals and paraded through the streets of Rye to mark the sixtieth year since Victory was declared in Europe.

The sound of a military band and marching feet brought the memories flooding back. Those that fought the Hitler War are in their eighties now, an ever decreasing band of men and women who have first hand recollections of the cruel conflict that left millions dead.

On VE Day 1945 there was dancing in the streets as the realisation that the terrible times were coming to a close and the troops were coming home. Rye had been in the forefront throughout the six years the battles raged across Europe. First there were fears of gas attacks and gas masks were carried by everyone. When our troops were surrounded on the Dunkirk beaches fishing boats from Rye went to help with the evacuation. Then the threat of invasion became imminent and Rye was at the very centre of Hitler’s planned invasion front.

The Battle of Britain was fought in the skies above the town and Rye became a target for ‘tip and run’ bombers. The Regent Cinema was totally destroyed in one raid and many houses were bombed in the period, some totally destroyed with fatal casualties.

The Ashford Sea Cadet Band lead the Parade through the Landgate

When the ‘exploratory’ raid on Dieppe was planned Rye housed many of the Canadian troops earmarked for the job. Sadly many did not return from the disastrous attempt to get a toe hold in Europe. Then, in 1944, when plans were made for ‘D Day’ this area became part of a massive holding area for thousands of troops waiting to take part on the Sixth of June.

Rye was also in the forefront of the flying bomb attack that started soon after the troops had landed in Normandy. Hundreds flew over the town on their way to London where they created havoc.

Those that got through the barrage of ack-ack fire were then pursued by fighters that dived from above to get up enough speed to catch the “Doodle Bugs”, as they became known locally, and then flew alongside and tipped the wing of the flying bomb with their own wing and hoped the thing would crash and explode in open country. Some fell in and around the town destroying property and killing several people.

So when the Germans surrendered on that amazing day in May 1945 it was as though a great cloud had been lifted.

                      The Veterans March Through Rye

So it was, sixty years later, survivors of that terrible conflict marched with heads held high through the streets of the town. Through the Landgate Arch and on to the Town Hall where The Mayor of Rye, Councillor Ian Potter, accompanied by the whole Council, took the salute.

Then it was on to St. Mary’s, where a special service, conducted by the Vicar of Rye, the Reverend Hugh Moseley gave veteran soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as other service and civilian survivors a chance to think back and remember their friends that did not make it to VE Day, also those that did but have passed on since. They were all heroes whose bravery and efforts during the darkest days of the War ensured that freedom was eventually won.

After the service a party was held at the Rye British Legion Headquarters. David Pawsey, Chairman of Rye British Legion, told a “Rye’s Own” reporter that “The turn out was far greater than expected, thanks in part to the efforts of the drivers of the Rye Community Transport buses who brought many veterans in from the surrounding villages.”

Thanks are also due to Police Community Support Officer Dan Bevan who put in a lot of work.

From the June 2005 Issue of “Rye’s Own”

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