Updated: Feb 4
The HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames Project are doing their bit to pull together and make the celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE-Day in May a tip-top shindig whether it’s on the 2333 yards of Southend Pier or online. The marvellous team of volunteers are working their socks off to gather the stories of WWII Southend, HMS Leigh and HMS Westcliff in order to share this secret history with the whole community now and into the future. The toil and efforts that lie ahead will not be forgotten, but the team will stand strong and stand together to show the world how to value the memories of the past and to respect the experiences of yesteryear. The HMS Leigh team is keeping a stiff upper lip and its tech boys and gals are busy scoping out ways to bring a virtual tour of the pier to life that will include the stories, exhibitions and films that will be shared at the HMS Leigh event once it is re-scheduled for later in the year. Hearty thanks go to all of the men, women, boys and girls working together to fight the good fight and soldier on to victory against this latest foe, and let’s all give three cheers to the magnificent National Lottery players who have made this all possible! The HMS Leigh project is stepping up its efforts to work with the local community to gather the stories of those who remember WW2 in Southend. The upcoming HMS Leigh event due to take place on Southend Pier from 5 - 10 May 2020 has been postponed due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak. However, with our crack team, we’ve leapt into action and have found a way to make a different method to celebrate VE Day – all from the comfort of your own home! The new event will be called ‘HMS Leigh – Make Do And Mend’, and like the original event it will be designed to engage school children and the wider community with the world class heritage that is right in front of Southend-on-Sea. ‘HMS Leigh – Make Do And Mend’ will tell the forgotten history of Southend Pier during World War Two; from her commandeering by the Royal Navy in 1939, being renamed HMS Leigh and used as secret Naval Command for the River Thames and London, to her being ‘paid off’ in October 1945 once the job was truly done. In order to prepare for May 2021, when the most amazing event for everyone in person is intended to take place, the team thought that could use all of the stories, information, films and experiences to keep people entertained in their own homes. On the schedule are live recorded music performances from local artists and groups, including the Music Man, So Slam and Digby Fairweather; history films about our amazing ancestors who went through a terrible war and kept on going to create our marvellous NHS; fascinating insights into over 50 organisations that are supporting the festival; online meet-and-greets with members of our armed forces: past, present and future, including: the Royal British Legion, the Royal Artillery Association and the Royal National Lifeboat Association. There will even be fireworks that pet lovers can enjoy with their headphones on! The team are also ramping up the Story Call service – if you have a story that you want to tell us about anyone from WWII, please book a slot and one of the lovely volunteers will be calling you to listen and write all the details down. The team are looking for great ideas and extra content – if you are a musician, poet or creative type who has a recording that can be used or scheduled for the festival, please get in touch.