By Ed O’Mara
PROUD veterans of a mammoth relief operation in post-war Germany were given a spontaneous round of applause by shoppers during a memorial march through the city centre.
The heroes of the Berlin Airlift, which began on June 28, 1948, were honoured during two days of festivities including a city-centre march yesterday.
The reunion was organised by the British Berlin Airlift Association (BBAA) to mark the 60th anniversary of the success of the operation to fly much -needed food and fuel to Allied troops and two million German inhabitants who were in the city of Berlin.
Following the Second World War, the ruined German capital was carved up between Allied nations Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union.
But the city itself lay deep within Soviet territory and on June 24, the Soviets sealed off all road, rail and inland waterway access to the city in a bid to seize it for themselves.
The only way British and US forces could get into Berlin was using three air corridors and so the airlift began on June 28.
It continued for 11 months until May, 1949, when the Soviets finally relented and re-opened the borders, but it claimed the lives of 78 men and women.
Every year the BBAA remembers the fallen heroes of the operation, with the 60th anniversary of a particularly poignant occasion for surviving veterans.
Yesterday veterans of the operation, and families of those who were unable to attend, were joined by members of the RAF, US Airforce and the Air Cadets as they proudly marched along Bridge Street, through Cathedral Square to a church service at St John’s Church.`
The parade was led by the RAF band, and the city centre came to a standstill as the parade made its way along the busy street.
Peterborough Mayor Cllr Pat Nash greeted them outside the Town Hall, where a large crowd of Sunday shoppers gathered to pay their tributes .
And as the dozens of heroes passed, toddlers, parents and grandparents who had been enjoying the weekend sunshine burst into a spontaneous round of applause to show their respect for the veterans.
The march was the climax of a weekend of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the mission.
About 100 BBAA members gathered at the Imperial War Museum airfield at RAF Duxford on Friday, before enjoying a 1940s musical feast from the Johnny Harris Orchestra at the Cresset in Bretton, Peterborough, on Saturday night.