Lone Spitfire signals start of celebrations

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Eyes were lifted skywards on Saturday afternoon as the evocative sight of a lone Spitfire over Forfar signalled the official start of local VE Day celebrations.

The fly-past by the replica fighter aircraft began a day-long commemoration organised by Legion Scotland marking 70 years since the end of the War in Europe.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland Band in action at the Market Muir on Saturday.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland Band in action at the Market Muir on Saturday.

Beginning with an afternoon of entertainment at the Market Muir, the day featured military bands, vehicle displays and a special performance by 1940s dance troupe, The Kennedy Cupcakes

It also included an impressive Beating Retreat ceremony at Station Park in the evening which was attended by a number of invited guests including Keith Brown, veterans secretary and cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities; Pierre-Alain Coffinier, the French Consul General; Angus Provost Helen Oswald and Georgiana Osborne, Lord Lieutenant of Angus.

The guests of honour, however, were the Second World War veterans present, who were applauded by the audience packed into the Station Park stand.

Led by the massed pipes and drums of Legion Scotland, the ceremony also included the Military Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The day’s events culminated in a free ceilidh held in the Legion Scotland clubrooms on Academy Street.

The stars of the day, however, were the veterans who mingled with and talked to members of the crowd at the Market Muir.

Alex Adam from Forfar was one of those who were reliving memories of May 8, 1945 and the 91-year-old said he was delighted that the event had attracted all ages.

He said: “It’s hard to believe it’s 70 years ago but I think this is a very good thing, to cast the memory back.

“It’s also a good thing to jog folks’ memories to remind them of just what was given during wartime.”

A veteran of the North African and Mediterranean campaigns, Mr Adam, a Royal Marine, spent VE Day in transit to Germany as his unit, 117 Brigade, was on its way there as an occupying force.

He continued: “I never got to take part in the celebrations that were going on. En route I saw Belsen burning, about a mile-and-a-half from where we were, and someone told us what it was.

“I remember seeing the smoke up in the distance. It was a terrible place, it was relief to know it was all over.

“We were mostly confined to our barracks and not allowed to mix with anyone. We ended up being there for about five months.

‘‘To us it felt like the war was still going on.”

The Forfar event was one of the biggest in Scotland to mark the 70th anniversary and heavily involved in its organisation were local couple Charlie and Margaret Brown.

Margaret is a Legion Scotland Standard bearer and an Army Cadet officer, while Charlie is Forfar branch chairman and chairman of Legion Scotland’s marketing and planning committee.

They were both in attendance with their two daughters, who are also former cadet SNCOs.

Margaret said: “It was a big honour for me to help Legion Scotland put on this event, to mark this incredible day that saw an end to one of the deadliest conflicts in our history.”

Charlie, who served 22 years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, also praised the public for its support.

He added: “As a family and supporters of Legion Scotland we were really proud to be there and see the local community turn out in force and be part of this special day.”

The event and its support by the public was also praised by Kevin Gray MM, Legion Scotland CEO.

He said: “VE Day is one of the most significant days in our nation’s history.

‘It was heartening to see the community coming together and meeting some veterans who served during the Second World War.

“The atmosphere was one of celebration of freedom in the spirit of VE Day.

‘‘At the same time people had a chance to pay respects to those who made extraordinary sacrifices for that hard-won freedom.”

Keith Brown also said he was honoured to attend the evening’s service of thanksgiving and remembrance.

He continued: “Those from Scotland and the rest of the UK and beyond whose actions helped free the peoples of Europe from brutal oppression will never be forgotten.

“This 70th anniversary of VE Day is a particularly poignant commemoration and moment for reflection for surviving veterans and those who can recall the events of 1945.”