How D Day anniversary will be marked in Dorchester

By Trevor Bevins - Local Democracy Reporter

24th Mar 2024 | Local News

Dorchester’s beacon at a previour event in Salisbury Field
Dorchester’s beacon at a previour event in Salisbury Field

STORY trails, music and theatre events and the lighting of the town's beacon will all feature in events to mark the 80th anniversary of D Day in Dorchester.

Soldiers from the American regiment which had been based in Dorchester at the time are also expected to visit the county town for the early June events.

Eye-witness accounts of Dorchester at the time, as American forces gathered in an around Dorchester, are being sought with a view to recording their memories and possibly using theatre to tell the stories.

The June 6th events will also include gospel singing workshop to mark the music the American troops brought to Dorchester.

At least eight locations in Dorchester are expected to be taking part in the commemorations – the Keep Military Museum, the County Museum, Shire Hall Museum, Borough Gardens, South Street, Corn Exchange, Salisbury Field and Brewery Square.

Work has already been going on into the historic research with the help of the Dorset History Centre, the town council's tourism and community officers, the Dorchester Music Service, and the Dorchester Community Plays Association to develop the proposals.

A town council-led bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and has secured a £9,933 grant towards the cost of the events in Dorchester.

Included in background research are history students from Bournemouth University and young historians from Keep Military Museum to find stories to be incorporated into a Story Trail event.

Artistic director Penny Levick will be working with local actors from Dorchester Community Play and local re-enactors to develop Dorchester D-Day stories into characters while the Dorchester Music Service and State of Play Theatre group is to work with local school children which will involve an acting workshop and gospel choir workshops.

A provisional programme for the day, June 6th, shows a D-Day proclamation to be read by the new Town Crier at Town Pump along with a reading of 'D-Day Heroes', a poem for schools.

In the evening an event at Salisbury Field is planned from 7pm with vintage military vehicles and re-enactors in GI uniform; a children's choir singing gospel inspired songs; readings by serving US soldiers; at 9.15pm the lighting of the beacon as part of the national event.

On Saturday 8th June from 2.00-4.00pm the proposals include 'story trail' events around Dorchester – with actors re-telling local accounts of the troops gathering in Dorchester ahead of D-Day and life in Dorchester at the time.

The events will take place at several locations with visitors able to move between the sites for each performance.

One of the locations, the Borough Gardens, will include music by The Decadettes.

Online the town will see the creation of a digital story trail about Dorchester and D-Day to be hosted on Discover Dorchester website following the June evente.

Said a town council spokesman: "It is hoped that the programme of events will bring the community together to commemorate this important anniversary in addition to providing a lasting record of memories of the impact of D-Day preparations on Dorchester."

Proposals are also being considered for one of the main flower beds in the Borough Gardens to be planted out to mark the anniversary.


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