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Locomotive rededication honours Battle of Britain strategist's role
9:20am Friday 6th September 2013 in Local
True rededication: From left, Nick Thompson, director of Southern Locomotives Ltd., Sir Lockwood Smith and Geoff Thompson, chairman of Southern Locos.
HUNDREDS of people turned out to witness the rededication of a locomotive in honour of a leading strategist in the Battle of Britain at Severn Valley Railway, nearly 66 years after the original naming ceremony.
Locomotive 34053 was rededicated to Sir Keith Park following an extensive restoration by Southern Locomotives Ltd.
The nameplate was unveiled by Sir Lockwood Smith, New Zealand High Commissioner, during the ceremony at Kidderminster railway station attended by guests and members of the public.
Among the invitees was SVR life member and shareholder Gerald Storer, of Wolverhampton, who attended the original naming ceremony at Brighton station in September, 1947, when he was 14.
Mr Storer, now 80, remembered attending the ceremony during his lunch break from school with several friends. Following the ceremony they were allowed to go on the footplate.
The rededication ceremony included talks from SVR’s general manager Nick Ralls, Geoff Thompson, chairman of Southern Locomotives Ltd., Squadron Leader Jim Beirne on behalf of the RAF and Terrence Prior-Stevens , great-nephew of Sir Keith.
A Guard of Honour was mounted by 156 (Kidderminster) Squadron ATC.
Following the ceremony at Kidderminster, around 200 guests were then taken on a trip along the line to Bridgnorth in a train hauled by loco 34053 Sir Keith Park, where they watched a flypast by a Hurricane and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Mr Ralls said: “It was a very special day for us at the railway to formally welcome the popular and iconic engine Sir Keith Park to the loco fleet.”
He added: “The loco serves to remind us of the vital role that Sir Keith Park played in the Battle of Britain and the debt that we owe him.”
Sir Keith is renowned by historians for his strategic skill in deploying Britain’s squadrons of Hurricane and Spitfire fighters to combat the invading German Luftwaffe as they crossed the South Coast in the summer of 1940.
To commemorate the historic achievement, locomotive 34053, built in Brighton in 1947, was dedicated to him and Sir Keith named the engine himself on September, 19, 1947, at Brighton Station.
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