Skirl of the pipes at Lee Victory Festival

HUNDREDS of people came marching together this weekend to celebrate the anniversaries of both VE (Victory in Europe) and VJ (Victory in Japan) days in Lee-on-the-Solent, which comes fifteen months after the festival was cancelled due to lockdown restrictions in May 2020. But this re-organised three day ticketed event was deemed a huge success, despite the absence of spitfires due to low cloud cover!!!

The first ever ‘Victory Festival’ enticed residents from Gosport & Fareham, but also saw visitors across the country pay tribute to veterans and celebrate crucial moments of World War Two that shape our world today. The Globe knows that a family from Somerset visited for the occasion, whilst Portsmouth News met a group from Berkshire who had braved traffic chaos to enjoy the festivities.

These started on Friday evening with the opening event held at the Recreation Ground featuring a static display of spitfires and hurricanes accompanied by living history; whilst a funfair, stalls & 1940s music continued throughout the afternoon finishing at 11pm as the crowds began to gather as warm weather and chatter filled the air.

Food, drink, and other entertainment was on offer throughout the three days; which included singing & dancing in the high street. Shut to traffic this area became a themed location with flags and bunting displayed, whilst stalls included 1940s gifts and examples of wartime ‘merchandise’ that seemed to be very popular with visitors.

Saturday saw a huge Military Parade featuring over 300 marchers, who travelled a fifteen mile route from the former HMS Daedalus site. Drummers,  WW2 vehicles and veterans joined the journey that led through the transformed high street; whilst Motor Gun boats were available on the Solent.

Sunday’s highlight saw a church service held at St Faiths, which gave people a chance to pay their respects to our war heroes. This was a poignant and well attended event, particularly as we were denied the chance to mark Remembrance Sunday last year as normal. Followed by tea and a choir performance from local groups, this was a great way to end the event that had seen so much and was enjoyed by so many.

Given its amazing success it is not known whether this event will become a regular feature of the annual calendar, particularly as it was organised to mark important anniversaries. But organiser of the event and chairman of the Lee Business Association, Jonathan Moore, was keen to highlight the positives of this event.

He said to Portsmouth News: “We’re trying to bring togetherness. We want to bring all the families of Lee, Gosport, Fareham to come together and celebrate. We’re very privileged to have three World War veterans here. Hopefully this will help the younger generation of children understand why we are here today.”

PIPING HOT: The Rose and Thistle Pipes and Drums performing at the Lee Victory Festival on Saturday, September 25. Photograph courtesy of Norman Pasley