Hundreds of people turned out to witness the re-dedication of a locomotive in honour of a crucial name in the Battle of Britain at the Severn Valley Railway, nearly 66 years after the original naming ceremony.
Saturday, August 31 saw locomotive 34053 re-dedicated to Sir Keith Park following an extensive restoration by Southern Locomotives Ltd.
The nameplate was unveiled by guest of honour, The Right Honourable Sir Lockwood Smith, New Zealand High Commissioner, during the ceremony at Kidderminster railway station.
Among the invitees on Saturday was SVR life member and shareholder Gerald Storer, from Wolverhampton, who attended the original naming ceremony at Brighton station in September 1947 when he was 14 years old.
Mr Storer, now aged 80, remembers attending the ceremony during his lunch break from school with several friends and afterwards they were allowed to go on the footplate.
The ceremony also 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.
“We were also honoured to host such distinguished guests including our guest of honour New Zealand High Commissioner The Right Honourable Sir Lockwood Smith, three RAF veterans who fought in the Battle of Britain, representatives from Sir Keith’s family and Oliver Bulleid, the grandson of the loco’s designer. 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 Park 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 this 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.