ON the day that marked the 70th anniversary since the D-Day landings, it was only fitting that part of its history was commemorated in Winchester.
Two memorial plaques and a rail signal were officially unveiled on the Hockley Viaduct on Friday (June 6), which runs adjacent to the M3 motorway through Winchester water meadows and the River Itchen.
It opened in October 1891, and linked Didcot, Newbury, Winchester and Southampton, playing a pivotal role in the transportation of soldiers and equipment during the First and Second World Wars.
The memorials are the final piece of the puzzle in the restoration of the site, which had been earmarked to be destroyed in the 1980s by the Army under Winchester City Council’s orders, but was saved after public outcry.
Friends of Hockley Viaduct, which was set up in 2007, campaigned for its restoration.
Julia Sandison, organiser, said: “I am absolutely thrilled and the Hampshire public use it all the time – the amount of people that came through during the ceremony just shows how important this has become to people.
“It’s historically, archeologically and architecturally important, and it is very beautiful.”
Around 30 people attended the unveiling ceremony, including Group Captain Paul O’Neill of Worthy Down barracks, Australia’s Lieutenant Commander Anthony Nagle, Canada’s Lieutenant Colonel Tony Kaduck, India’s Brigadier Saudeepau Handa, Steve Brine MP, and explorer, author and broadcaster, John Pilkington.
However, Chris Webb, who battled to preserve the viaduct for decades was unable to attend due to illness.
After a speech from Cllr Robert Hutchison, The Last Post sounded and there was even an impromptu fly-past.
The first memorial is dedicated to the troops who crossed the viaduct to and from the vast military camp at Avington to return home to the UK, Australia, Bermuda, Canada and India amongst others.
The Railway men who oversaw the passage in the run up to D-Day are recognised on the second plaque.