D-Day 80th anniversary: Special sculpture depicting a life-sized landing craft will be unveiled on South Bay at Scarborough Armed Forces Day event

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The 80th anniversary of D-Day will be commemorated at Scarborough Armed Forces Day later this month through an artwork built by members of the community.

The 12-metre-long relief sculpture, created by the Animated Objects Theatre Company with the help of the community, will depict a life-sized D-Day landing craft and it is set to be unveiled on Scarborough’s South Bay on the day of the event.

Scarborough Armed Forces Day, which is organised by North Yorkshire Council, is the largest such event in Yorkshire and takes place on Saturday, June 29. It will see thousands of people flock to the town’s South Bay to view air displays, parades and performances.

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The sculpture, which will be made entirely from cardboard, is being built throughout June with the help of community groups and school children at workshops.

A cardboard depiction of a soldier at sunrise on Scarborough’s South Bay. Photo: The Animated Objects Theatre CompanyA cardboard depiction of a soldier at sunrise on Scarborough’s South Bay. Photo: The Animated Objects Theatre Company
A cardboard depiction of a soldier at sunrise on Scarborough’s South Bay. Photo: The Animated Objects Theatre Company

Lee Threadgold, artistic director at the Animated Objects Theatre Company, said: “We’re always amazed by the enthusiasm shown by participants and visitors to our larger scale sculptures at the Armed Forces Day events, and this year is going to be our biggest to date.

“It’s a huge effort to build something like this using only cardboard and we can’t thank the workshop participants enough - they put incredible effort into the construction, and it’s always great to see the younger groups taking a real interest in history as well.

“We can’t wait to see the reaction from visitors on the beach at Armed Forces Day.”

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Previous Armed Forces Day events have seen the company create life-size tanks and larger-than-life soldiers from cardboard which have been popular with visitors.

Lee Threadgold, of the Animated Objects Theatre Company, with Pat Lee and a cardboard soldierLee Threadgold, of the Animated Objects Theatre Company, with Pat Lee and a cardboard soldier
Lee Threadgold, of the Animated Objects Theatre Company, with Pat Lee and a cardboard soldier

This year, one of the VIP guests attending Armed Forces Day is World War Two veteran Ray Whitwell, aged 105, originally from Malton and now living in Scarborough.

Mr Whitwell was conscripted into the Army in 1939 at the age of 20 and was sent to Belgium as a lorry driver delivering fuel to the front-line.

In 1940, he was part of the defence of Dunkirk and instead of waiting to be evacuated, drove inland to Lille, took a train to Cherbourg and managed to get a lift back to England on a Dutch fishing boat. In 1941, he and his company converted to paratroopers and fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

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In 1944, he was one of the first Royal Army Service Corps to be dropped into the Netherlands in Operation Market Garden.

A community group at Falsgrave Community Centre building cardboard soldiers for the sculpture, led by Lee Threadgold from the Animated Objects Theatre CompanyA community group at Falsgrave Community Centre building cardboard soldiers for the sculpture, led by Lee Threadgold from the Animated Objects Theatre Company
A community group at Falsgrave Community Centre building cardboard soldiers for the sculpture, led by Lee Threadgold from the Animated Objects Theatre Company

Sharing his memories, Mr Whitwell said: “I always knew that I was coming back. I took every bit of precaution like taking cover, which I thought was common sense.”

He maintained that he does not see himself as a hero, and insisted: “I’m just ordinary.”

Scarborough Armed Forces Day will feature four air displays, performances from the Yorkshire Corps and Drums and the Yorkshire Volunteers Band, as well as local sea and air cadet drill teams.

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The event is a chance for service personnel, veterans and their families to be celebrated and treated to a day out on the coast, with special discounts given to them by businesses across the town organised by Heroes Welcome Scarborough.

Richard Flinton, chief executive of North Yorkshire Council, said: “It is important that we celebrate Armed Forces Day and give thanks to our service personnel and veterans.

“I am proud that North Yorkshire was one of the first places in the UK to have an Armed Forces Covenant in place and the county is home to many who have served, or are serving, in the Armed Forces.

“With this year being the 80th anniversary of D-Day, it is an opportunity to reflect on how much those who serve in the forces sacrifice for us, and the stories of veteran Ray Whitwell really drive that message home.

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“I encourage people to come to Scarborough in June to experience the event and view the fantastic sculpture which is being built by the community to commemorate D-Day and those who fought in it.”

The 80th anniversary of D-Day is being marked today (Thursday, June 6) after the largest seaborne invasion in history took place in Normandy in 1944.

Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, the invasion began the liberation of France along with the rest of western Europe and laid the foundations for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

For more information about Armed Forces Day, visit www.armedforcesday.org.uk

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