ONE village in the county stood out from the rest this week, as it received two very special visitors.
Ex-servicemen Medwyn Parry and Dougie Bancroft decided they wanted to visit each and every ‘thankful village’ in the country.
These are villages which sent troops out to the first world war – but all the men returned. There are only 51 of these communities in the UK and East Wittering is one of them.
The pair decided with the centenary year of the outbreak of the first world war in 2014, they wanted to present each village with a memorial plaque – as they have no war memorials of their own.
Mr Bancroft said although all the troops from the thankful villages were lucky enough to return home, many had been scarred physically or mentally by their experience of war.
“They have not got the recognition they deserve,” he said.
So the pair set off on their motorbikes on a nine-day trip to each of the villages – and on Monday evening (July 29) they made it to St Anne’s Church in East Wittering.
Ex-servicemen, Girl Guides, villagers and the vicar were there to greet them with tea, cake and open arms.
Mr Bancroft then presented the vicar with the memorial plaque and a certificate for the Guides, and asked if the plaque could be unveiled next year to mark the 100-year anniversary.
Father Steve Davies, vicar of St Anne’s Church, said: “The community was quite small then, with only around 210 people but we played our part, and sent our troops off, and they all came back safely.”
He said the church, together with the parish council and the Royal British Legion, planned to erect a war memorial in the village by next year – perhaps with the memorial plaque as part of that.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “They are doing this to raise money for the Royal British Legion. It is great.”
The pair are hoping to raise £51,000 for the charity as part of their nine-day ride.
Villager and ex-servicemen Tony Murphy was one of the many legion members at the church to welcome the guests.
“Fifty-one villages in the whole country where all the servicemen returned, it is quite significant,” he said.
“It makes East Wittering quite unique.”
East Wittering is the only thankful village in Sussex: the closest neighbouring thankful villages are Knowlton in Kent and Langton Herring, Dorset.
To follow the pair’s progress, and to find out more about thankful villages, visit the website at www.thankfulvillagesrun.com