HUNDREDS of people gathered at Weymouth Harbour as part of a special commemoration service for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Organised as part of the Millin - Montgomery Voyage, which is celebrating the ports that played a crucial role in the operation, the service started shortly after 10.30am when bagpiper Karl Wainwright was brought into the harbour by boat from Portland Port.
Mr Wainwright was playing a replica set of pipes to the ones Bill Millin famously played as he led the troops off the boats and onto the beaches of Normandy.
He led a procession which included the Royal British Legion Standards from the Pavilion to the harbour.
Rev Dennis Mould, of the Weymouth Merchant Navy Association (MNA), then led the service which included hymns, prayers, the Last Post, the national anthem,. Mayor Ray Banham and Peter Tambling of the MNA laid down a wreath.
Following the wreath-laying, those in attendance scattered poppy petals into the harbour in memory of the soldiers, followed by a minute's silence.
Ray Banham, who was attending his last official function as mayor, said: “It is only right that we should remember the sacrifices made by the soldiers who left these shores on D-Day.
“The bagpiper must have been an inspiration to the soldiers on the beaches of Normandy as they left the boats.”
Sean Cullen is the chairman of the City of Liverpool Royal British Legion who organised the Millin - Montgomery Voyage.
Mr Cullen said: “Although a lot of people go to France and the war graves in Normandy to remember the fallen, hundreds of thousands of people in England, in places like Weymouth, helped with the with the landings so we thought we would give them a chance to commemorate D-Day and also celebrate the part they played.
“I am very impressed with the turnout in Weymouth today. I thought there might not be many because of the weather but I have been pleasantly surprised.”
Naomi Turner, chairman of the Weymouth branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “I thought the service was amazing, it was wonderful so many people turned out.
“It was a very fitting tribute and it's just lovely we were all able to take part. So many veterans turned out which was wonderful and I'd like to say a big thank you to Portland Port who supplied the boat which brought the bagpiper in.”
The replica pipes will leave Weymouth on Friday for the next leg of the voyage aboard Motor Torpedo Boat 102 which arrived in the harbour this afternoon.
MTB-102 was the Dunkirk flagship during the evacuation of the beaches in France in 1940 and carried Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower to inspect the fleet before D-Day four years’ later.
It is thought to be the only surviving Royal Navy vessel that took part in the Dunkirk evacuation and it was chosen to lead the pageant on the Thames during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
Don't miss the Dorset Echo all next week when we will be paying tribute to the men and women who played a vital role in the D-Day landings.
The coverage will culminate in a special supplement on Friday, June 6-the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
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