FORMER soldiers returned to Chichester today (May 4) and were given a warm and welcome reception as they paraded up North Street.
Veterans of the Italy campaign between 1943 and 1945 have visited Chichester for a reunion for the past decade or so, to commemorate their actions and remember the lives that were lost.
After a service of remembrance and dedication at the cathedral, they marched along West Street, around the Market Cross and then headed up North Street, finishing at Crane Street.
Many of the veterans marching today were in their 90s, but were still determined to take part.
As well as the service and the march, members of the Italy Star Association are staying at the South Downs Holiday Village over the weekend.
Just after the march, the national chairman Mary Tidy said the weekend had been ‘lovely’.
“It’s always absolutely excellent,” she said. “It seems to go by in a flash. After a lovely, buoyant service there were wreaths laid on behalf of the association and the co-founders.”
Mary’s father Eric Cheadle and his brother Maurice founded the association in 1987 and it works to commemorate the efforts of all those involved in the Italy campaign and its contribution to the end of the war.
Mary added: “We do hope to be here next year because next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. We’re so desperate for people to know that these people were the first into Europe.”
The soldiers were fighting in Europe even before the D-Day landings, which many people tend to associate as being the first time the allies re-entered Europe after Dunkirk.
This has led them to proudly carry the nickname of the D-Day Dodgers.
For a full report and picture spread of the march, see Thursday’s Chichester Observer (May 8).
Visit http://www.italystarassociation.org.uk for more information on the association.