The remarkable part Southend Pier - also known as HMS Leigh - played in the dark days of the Second World War is set to be honoured.

Southend’s Blade Education has said announced that thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, the amazing untold story of the miracle of Victorian landmark which stood firm and steady in the darkest nights and most frightening of days to save London and the country in the war will be revealed next year.

In September 1939, the pier became the Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary and was renamed HMS Leigh, with surrounding areas becoming HMS Westcliff.

Blade Education has been awarded £9,7800 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support its HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames Project on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day in May.

The pier will be the perfect setting to celebrate all those veterans and civilians who lived through the Second World War.

Experts from the Essex Society of Family History, the Leigh Society, Southend Museum and the Royal Artillery Association, Shoeburyness Branch, will be working together to create lifelong learning materials so people can never forget the heroism of those who served the country in all kinds of ways in the Second World War.

HMS Leigh aims to record and archive the stories of those who lived through the years of 1939-1945.

Scott Dolling, director of Culture and Tourism for Southend Council, said: “This is a truly inspirational project that will bring generations together in such a way to help commemorate a nationally significant date whilst being rooted in our most renowned icon, Southend Pier.

“The council is delighted to be part of the project and our team are already excited about the prospect of helping bring this story to life with partners.”

A Blade Education spokeswoman said: “On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in May 2020, local schools, lead by Kingsdown School, will bring back to life the extreme joy and relief that the war was over.

“Come with us and join in with a community working together to keep everyone safe, from Lt Cdr Idris Morris Burt to the extraordinary Mona, who ran the Pier NAAFI, which acted as canteen and the supply point for 3,367 convoys of ships comprising 84,297 vessels that departed to fight the war.”

She added: “Southend Pier is our borough’s icon, a true survivor with an incredible history that makes it the perfect backdrop to bring all ages together to revel in the crucial part it played in the Second World War where it became the Guardian of the Thames, London and the UK.”

The HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames project team would like to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences or those that they heard from those they loved.

Either visit our website or email or send a letter to 43, Blenheim Crescent, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.