Five brave D-Day veterans from Swanage – who took part in the largest and most daring maritime invasion in history back in 1944 – have been recognised by volunteers on the town’s award-winning steam railway.
Ray Wiseman, Brian Guy, Peter Lovett, Lee Wrake and Cliff Brown took a special trip on a steam train from Swanage to Corfe Castle station, on the relaid Purbeck line, to view a new Purbeck at War exhibition.
Little more than teenagers 70 years ago, the D-Day veterans were welcomed at Swanage station by Swanage Railway Company Chairman Peter Sills and members of the seaside town’s Royal British Legion, including one of its standard bearers.
After the official welcome, a minute’s silence was held in memory of all those who lost their lives in the Second World War.
The five war veterans who took part in the historic D-Day attack on Normandy on Tuesday, 6 June, 1944 – the largest and most ambitious maritime invasion in history – boarded a special carriage, normally used in the ‘Wessex Belle’ luxury dining train – for the steam train trip from Swanage to Corfe Castle.
Arriving at Corfe Castle – after enjoying tea and cake on the train – the special guests were welcomed to the restored station by members of the village’s Royal British Legion, including one of the branch’s standard bearers.
Ray, Brian, Peter, Lee and Cliff were shown a new Purbeck at War exhibition researched and produced by dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers.
With a Royal Air Force radar team, Lee Wrake landed with American forces on Omaha Beach while Royal Navy sailor Ray Wiseman was a signalman launching landing craft filled with troops bound for the British Sword beach in Normandy.
Peter Lovett served with British Army and took part in the D-Day landings on Juno beach while Brian Guy served with the Royal Engineers clearing German invasion obstacles on Sword Beach.
Cliff Brown served on a Royal Navy minesweeper that took part in D-Day and with the coming of peace became a signalman at Worgret Junction – the start of the branch line from Wareham down to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
Swanage Railway Company Chairman Peter Sills said: “It was very moving and humbling to meet Swanage’s five D-Day veterans and a real pleasure to chat to them about their part in history.
“There can’t be many small towns that are home to five D-Day veterans who all took part in the assault on the Normandy beaches on 6 June, 1944 – the largest and most daring maritime invasion in history.
“We wanted to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic invasion of Nazi-held mainland Europe and also say a big thank you to five very brave men who fought for their country at the time of its greatest need.
“The Purbeck area was a restricted area during the Second World War because of vital and top secret training by troops in the months leading up to D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France.
“An important exercise for D-Day took place on Studland beach with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower and King George VI travelling to Swanage by train.
“Soldiers preparing for the top secret and crucial invasion of Normandy on Tuesday, 6 June, 1944, were billeted in the Purbeck area with many troops coming to and from Swanage by train.
“The passing loop track at Corfe Castle was lengthened during 1943 so that the station could handle longer trains carrying soldiers and their equipment in the run-up to the D-Day invasion of France,” explained Mr Sills.