VISITORS to a Northumberland beach will be transported back to the 1940s this weekend as volunteers celebrate the transformation of a unique collection of wartime relics into a tourist attraction.
Blyth Battery – which is considered one of the most complete examples of a coastal defence battery in eastern Britain – has been revitalised as a visitor and education complex following a £525,000 investment.
Cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and Blyth Valley Council was used to revamp the crumbling structures, which include a searchlight tower, gun emplacements, a magazine block, observation posts, a rangefinder tower and an engine house.
The battery was built to protect the Northumberland coastline from attack during both world wars, but was left derelict and decaying for many years before its rescue and restoration.
This Saturday and Sunday the opening to visitors will be marked by a 1940s-themed event organised by the Blyth Battery Volunteers, the local group given the task of running the facility.
There will be military vehicles from the past, including Army jeeps and trucks, and even a Spitfire. Visitors will be able to sit in the cockpit of a Canberra aircraft, see a 25lb gun from Tynemouth and take a look inside a field hospital.
Dozens of re-enactors will give the beach a 1940s feel with their outfits and uniforms, and visitors will be able to see and handle weapons and equipment from the wartime period. Live music will be provided by a military pipe band.
Members of the volunteers group will also welcome American veteran Frank Dorsey, who served with the 225th Searchlight Battalion on Tyneside during the Second World War. Frank, who is making a special trip from the USA to be a part of the celebrations, will unveil a memorial to the ‘Skylighters’.
Lindsay Durward, secretary of the Volunteers said, said: “Blyth Battery played a vital role in defending the Northumberland coast during the Second World War, so it is great to be putting a bit of that 1940s spirit back into the place.
“With all the re-enactors in their outfits, and the planes and vehicles on display, the site really will be coming to life again.”
The event, at South Beach, Blyth, runs from 11am-4pm on both days. Blyth Battery is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday until the end of September from 11.30am to 4pm.
Entrance is free and guided tours of the site are available for a small charge. The volunteers can be contacted on 07882 462284.