Railway centre gives insight into wartime

Helen Prior and Frank Dumbleton at Didcot Railway Centre in a carriage thought to have been used by D-Day commander Gen Dwight Eisenhower. Picture: OX676133 Antony Moore

Helen Prior and Frank Dumbleton at Didcot Railway Centre in a carriage thought to have been used by D-Day commander Gen Dwight Eisenhower. Picture: OX676133 Antony Moore Buy this photo

First published in News

MORE than 200 youngsters will learn about life during wartime to mark this Friday’s 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

As Normandy veterans return to the beaches to mark the heroics and sacrifices made in 1944, the students will visit Didcot Railway Centre for an authentic taste of 1940s life.

Pupils from six primaries within the Didcot Partnership of Schools – Chilton, Hagbourne , Ladygrove Park, Harwell, South Moreton and Long Wittenham – will join the centre’s commemorations to learn about the railways’ role in the war.

Accompanied by the Great Western Society education team, children will be dressed in 1940s clothing and carry gas masks.

They will travel in a blackout coach on an ‘evacutation steam train’ that will be met by the Lady of the Manor who will house them and give them chores to do.

Youngsters will get a feel for what life was like during bombing raids in a shelter and have the chance to sample wartime food with its rationing.

The commemoration event will be officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson at 11am.

The launch will be followed by wartime singing, a picnic surrounding the train turntable and classic children’s entertainment, a Punch and Judy show.

It marks the beginning of the centre’s commemoration weekend to mark the landings which will include blackouts on trains, a flyover of a Spitfire and a performance by the Oxford Ukuleles.

Railway centre volunteer Frank Dumbleton, from Chilton, said: “It is a most important anniversary to commemorate and the blackout will show visitors how the war affected the railways.”

Railway centre commercial manager Ann Middleton added: “D-Day was such an important day and turning point in the war, we’re pleased to be able to welcome over 200 children to help us commemorate the 70th anniversary of it, in a way that they’ll always remember.

“The children will have a wonderful opportunity to experience war time themes, such as to travel behind one of our steam engines, just like their great grandparents did at the time.”

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