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Pickering steps back in time for Wartime Weekend
AT 11 o’clock exactly, the clocks in Pickering turned back 70 years and hostilities began again.
The town’s annual Wartime Weekend began yesterday morning and the town was soon flooded with nostalgia.
Philip Benham, general manager of the North York Moors Railway, said: “Looking out of my office window the railway is full of military personnel and people in all sorts of different 1940s dress, and the sun has come out as well.
“We handed the railway over to the re-enactors at 11am and the clocks turned back to 1943. It’s always 1943 at the Wartime Weekend, which means this year we are marking a 70th anniversary.”
Friday was “evacuee day” at the festival, and children from Pickering’s St Joseph’s RC Primary School were among those playing the part of wartime city children sent to new homes in the country.
Twelve pupils from the reception class -–all only four or five years old – dressed up in 1940s costume and headed from school to Pickering railway station.
The little boys were in their flat caps and the little girls in knitted bonnets, and they all had gas mask boxes round their necks. Women from the WRVS came to walk them down from school to the railway station.
Jane Whaling, school secretary, said: “They got a lot of attention walking down the main street because they are so tiny. Looking at them you could believe they really were about to go on that journey away from home.”
The war goes on in Pickering through today and tomorrow and Mr Benham said the railway was prepared for crowds of re-enactors and nostalgic visitors.
He said: “We’ve pressed every carriage into service to make sure we have enough room for everyone, but if the trains are crowded we just say ‘there is a war on!’”
The Wartime Weekend was originally launched to commemorate the part railway workers played in the Second World War.
Mr Benham said: “It was a reserved occupation, and 395 railway personnel were killed and 2,500 injured. It might not seem very many, but behind everyone is a story of heroism, and of people choosing to stay at their posts rather than go to a place of safety.”
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