LIFELINE: German children cheer the arrival of an allied flight during the airlift.
VETERANS are busy preparing for a huge reunion weekend in Peterborough to mark the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
A city centre march promises to be the highlight when former war heroes from the British Berlin Airlift Association congregate over the weekend of June 28.
It will be an emotional time for the veterans as they remember the aftermath of the Second World War, and their efforts to get food to West Berliners.
Following the Second World War, defeated Germany was split into four sectors controlled by the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and the United States. The capital Berlin, despite being deep in the Soviet sector was also similarly spilt.
However, the Soviets wanted control of the whole of Berlin, and in the summer of 1948, they imposed a blockade on the Allied sectors.
Access to the area was severely reduced, and fears grew the 2.2 million residents of West Berlin would run out of food.
So the British and Americans launched the Berlin Airlift to get food to the affected areas by air, and the Russian blockade was lifted in May 1949.
The people of West Berlin still commemorate the lifting of the blockade on May 12 each year with a service at the airlift memorial in Tempelhof, Berlin.
UK veterans who flew during the airlift period set up the British Berlin Airlift Association in 1994, which, at its peak, had 720 members. It is hoped many of the remaining 450 veterans will be in Peterborough to mark the 60th anniversary.
Chairman Geoff Smith said: “It is going to be a busy weekend. We have the parade on Sunday and a concert the night before.
“We mark the anniversary each year, but this one is special because it is 60 years since it happened.
“In 1998, more than 350 members visited Berlin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the airlift.”
The march will start at 1pm behind Peterborough town hall.
A commemorative service in St John’s Church to remember the 78 personnel who were killed on the operation will follow.
The Cresset, in Bretton, will also play host to a concert on June 28 to commemorate the start of the airlift. It features The Johnny Harris Orchestra.
There will also be a veterans’ day at the Imperial War Museum, in Duxford, on June 27.
Two German guests have already visited Stamford to reveal the programme of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift in Germany.
Husband and wife Horst and Baerbal Simon, who are curators of the Cold War Museum, spoke to war veterans about their plans to mark the anniversary.
Baerbal Simon said the anniversary was an opportunity to remember the fallen servicemen.
She said: “We will honour the heroes who aren’t in the history books. They did a wonderful job during the airlift.”
n For more information on the anniversary plans, visit http://www.bbaa-air lift.org.uk
To book tickets for the concert, call 01733 265705 or 01780 470446.
The full article contains 509 words and appears in Peterborough ET newspaper.
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