Battle group plan massive splash at Colwyn Bay’s Forties Festival


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A World War Two battle re-enactment group is set to make a massive splash at Colwyn Bay’s 1940s festival next month.

The supercharged display will be put on by North West Military Collectors group (NWMIL), whose pyrotechnic experts strive to make the action as authentic as possible.

As part of their explosive exhibition they plan to submerge a controlled incendiary in the lake at Eirias Park in the seaside town, carefully timed to erupt in the water mid-battle.

“It should be a spectacular highlight of the show,” said NWMIL events manager Graham Bouckley, of Great Sutton.

The re-enactment group was a bumper hit at last year’s Forties Festival and the members are looking forward to returning to the crowd-pulling two day pageant, which celebrates Colwyn Bay’s strategic war-time role in keeping Britain fed, when the Ministry of Food set up its HQ in the town’s hotels.

This year’s festival, on the weekend of April 21-22, features full-sized replicas of a Spitfire and a Hurricane, with the town invaded by fans of the era, dressed in vintage style. Plus there will be displays of military vehicles, Llandudno’s tram and war-time weapons along with heritage tours. Colwyn Bay’s streets will host performances by Forties style performers plus local food producers, wartime ephemera and nostalgia items.

An evening of dance and music, Ballroom Blitz on Saturday April 21, takes place at the Barn in Zip World Stadium in Eirias Park, and features DJ Malcolm Murray, vintage singer Clara Bloom and the Ukulele Party Band with Reflections.

The festival, the seventh to be held,  has been organised by the Bay of Colwyn Business Network and is backed by Bay of Colwyn Town Council, printers Powlsons plus Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID), which is aiming to revitalise the area.

Colwyn BID project manager Anna Openshaw said: “We are expecting thousands of visitors to the Forties Festival, when there will be plenty for families to enjoy, all free, on the streets of Colwyn Bay.

“North West Military Collectors group were a great hit last year so we are delighted they are returning again, and it sounds as though they have a real spectacular in store for everybody.

“For many older people the festival is a trip down memory lane, as they can recall the town when it was taken over by the Ministry. It’s also a chance for younger people to see what life was like for their relatives.”

NWMIL will perform at Eirias Park on Saturday April 21, and are already practicing their combat manoeuvres, at Grange Farm woodlands in Worsley, Manchester.

Group founder and chairman Peter Hall, of Sychdyn near Mold, said: “We work hard to replicate battle scenes that are realistic, to honour the memory of those who served in the likes of Normandy, Dunkirk and Arnhem.  All our members have a keen interest in military history, especially the Second World War. We’ve huge respect for the men and women who fought through those times.”

Peter, a self-employed joiner, has nurtured a life-long interest in the period and attended other re-enactment events before launching NWMIL 15 years ago.

“My wife Margaret, who is also an enthusiast, even bought me a Willys Jeep, which were used by the US Army in World War Two, for my 40th birthday!” said Peter who lived in Cefn-y-Bedd, near Wrexham, before recently moving to Sychdyn.

He added: “It was my wife who encouraged me to launch the group. We were going to so many events run by other organisations that she said ‘why not start your own’. Now we have about 160 members of all ages. Some live locally in Buckley, Mold, and Colwyn Bay, but we also have people from Cheshire and further afield across the north west.”

Peter said: “We’ve been to some of the biggest festivals in Britain and also mounted exhibitions abroad including in French Normandy, the Greek island of Crete, and in Bastogne, Belgium, where the Battle of the Bulge was.”

Graham Bouckley, among the group’s long-standing members, is responsible for organising its diary and already has 14 re-enactments/festivals scheduled for 2018. The Colwyn Bay Forties festival is their first major outing of the season.

Graham who, coincidentally like Peter, is a self-employed joiner and also the proud owner of a 1944 American Willys jeep, said: “Colwyn Bay is familiar to us now and not too far for most members to travel so it’s a great start to our year. It has a brilliant atmosphere and attracts a good crowd, with people keen to ask questions and find out more about our group.”

Graham’s wife, Christine, who works at the Countess of Chester Hospital, also enjoys attending the spectacles.

He said: “She’s not so much into the combat but she loves to go to the 1940s parades and dances.”

At Colwyn Bay a Ballroom Blitz Dance will be held on the Saturday evening at Eirias Park with revellers invited to wear forties fashions.

More about the event at Facebook/Colwyn Bay Forties Festival

For information on North West Military Collectors visit www.nwmil.co.uk

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