THE connection between a Basingstoke pub and the D-Day landings is there for all to see following a special plaque unveiling.
Remembrance Sunday was a fitting date for members of Basingstoke Heritage Society to unveil a plaque at The Wheatsheaf, in Winton Square, to commemorate the life of Major John Howard, who played a vital role on that pivotal day on June 6, 1944.
Major Howard and other officers from the 1st Airlanding Brigade arrived in Basingstoke in January 1942 and their officers’ mess was based in The Wheatsheaf.
A couple of years later, Major Howard was instrumental in leading the capture of the key “Pegasus” Bridge, and he and his men were instrumental in preventing German forces from attacking the eastern flank of the Allied forces landing at Sword Beach on D-Day.
At the unveiling of the plaque, Ian Williams, chairman of the heritage society, introduced David Robotham, head of The King’s School, Sarum Hill, who gave a talk about how local people should celebrate the history of the town.
He said: “He (Major Howard) was here for two years. The formation of comradeship between him and his men was formed here in Basingstoke, and their part in the liberation on D-Day was crucial.”
Borough mayor Councillor Martin Biermann said he had previously been unaware of the connection between Basingstoke and the D-Day landings, and he praised the society for celebrating local history.
He said: “You could not have picked a more appropriate day to unveil this plaque.”
The plaque was meant to be unveiled by Steve Welch, previous landlord of The Wheatsheaf, but in his absence, veteran Jim Beasant, who was attending the event, stepped up to do the honours.
Mr Beasant, 89, is president of Kingsclere Royal British Legion and was a sergeant in the 13th Parachute Battalion. The plaque is the 21st to be unveiled by Basingstoke Heritage Society.