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  • Alastair Deacon

HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames Photocall

Supporters, friends, local historians, actors and volunteers will be coming together to launch our new project, HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames at the Pier on Friday January 3rd at midday. Everyone attending of all ages will have given permission for photographs taken at this event to be used in the media. We are delighted that the Royal Artillery Association Shoeburyness Branch will also be joining us with one of their genuine WW2 gun crews to start the celebrations for their centary

On the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in 6 th -10th May 2020, Southend Pier will once again become Naval Headquarters in the Thames, with men, women and children in full costume bringing back to life the people who won the war in 1945. From Pier Commander Idris Morris Burt to Mona who ran the all-important canteen or NAAFI to the young Scouts and Guides that were used to take messages up and down HMS Westcliff (aka the Seafront to us now!) there will be joy and celebration of those who survived the terrible conflict and of our community today. Local performers of all kinds are being invited to take part and if you bring your mug with you the NAAFI will fill it with tea or squash free of charge. Local schools lead by Kingsdown School will bring back to life the extreme joy and relief that the war was over. Thanks has to go to the already overwhelming response the team has had via the project website www.hmsleigh.org.uk and if anyone has a WW2 story to tell, please do come along on Friday.


Southend Pier is our borough’s icon, a true survivor with an incredible history that makes it the perfect backdrop to bring all ages together to revel in the crucial part it played in World War II where it became the Guardian of the Thames, London and the UK. The pier has always been a wonderful community space and in September 1939 it became the Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary and was renamed HMS Leigh with surrounding areas becoming HMS Westcliff.

It is also the perfect setting to celebrate all those veterans and civilians and to learn as much as possible about WW2 in order to discover what it was like to live through these experiences. HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames project team would be delighted to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences or those that they heard from those they loved. Either visit our website www.hmsleigh.org.uk or email contactus@hmsleigh.org.uk or send a letter to 43, Blenheim Crescent, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex SS9 3DT.


Southend-on-Sea based Blade Education has been awarded £97800.00 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (HF) to support its HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames Project. As well as creating a unique once in a lifetime experience for the community in May 2020, volunteers and experts from The Royal Marines Association, The Endeavour Trust, Essex Society of Family History, The Leigh Society, Southend Museums and the Royal Artillery Association, Shoeburyness Branch will be working together to create lifelong learning materials so we never forget the heroism of those who served us in all kinds of way in WW2. HMS Leigh aims to record and archive the stories of those who lived through the amazing years of 1939-1945. But the final word goes to National Lottery players who have funded this brilliant project. Blade Education is delighted to announce that thanks to the generosity of National Lottery Players our team, in May 2020, in partnership with the great people of Southend-on-Sea on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day will reveal the amazing untold story of the miracle of Victorian engineering that stood firm and steady in the darkest nights and most frightening of days to save London and the country in WW2.


Notes to Editors:

About the National Lottery Heritage Fund: Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund About Southend-on-Sea Borough Council: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is the guardian of Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world and a major landmark, extending 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary. Sir John Betjeman once said that "the Pier is Southend; Southend is the Pier". The pier is a Grade II listed building. www.southend.gov.uk Follow @SouthendBC on Twitter, https://www.facebook.com/SouthendBCOfficial on Facebook and https://www.instagram.com/southendbc/ on Instagram


About Blade Education: Blade Education is a not for profit company based in Leigh-on-Sea that works with local communities to create new ways to tackle social issues, experience heritage and combat disadvantage through art, education and information. We believe passionately in lifelong learning with a special emphasis on building bridges between the older and younger generations and that outdoor learning is the best way for children to understand and engage with the world around them. www.blade-education.org.uk #BladeEducation

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Main image courtesy of Dean Trotter

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