Just when you thought it was safe to pack away the bunting, an event to celebrate the 76th anniversary of VE-day is set to head to Southend Pier next year.

The celebrations will kick off between May 6 and 9 2021, with the hopes of both sharing the tale of HMS Leigh and inspiring younger generations to follow in the footsteps of those resourceful men and women who together turned a pleasure pier into a naval battle station during World War Two.   

Southend Pier was actually renamed HMS Leigh when it was taken over by the Royal Navy during the war, and was used as the control point for the Thames as well as all shipping coming in and out of the Port of London.

Between 1939 and 1945 the 1.3 mile structure, which today is known as the world's longest pleasure pier, played a vital role in the security of the country.

Southend Pier Railway even worked to deliver supplies and take the wounded to the shore. 

To remember this, HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames, a community lead heritage and arts project that aims to connect people of all ages with the history of Southend Pier, will be hosting next years celebrations.

Over the next year, in the lead up to the 76th anniversary, the HMS Leigh Team will be working to bring people together to celebrate the best of Southend's World War Two History, exhibitions, inclusive art activities, performances, and engaging with local charities.

There will also be a whole host of online mini events to mark some of the most important dates in the history of HMS Leigh and World War Two Southend.

Alastair Deacon, HMS Leigh Project Officer, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames to work with our older and younger communities to bring the hidden history of World War Two Southend back to life and help us all remember how hugely important Southend Pier was to saving this country from invasion during the war.

"The work and sacrifice of the men and women of Southend should not be forgotten.”  

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council and Southend Council, the HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames was created as part of the VE 75 celebrations which was set to take place this year.

 Due to the pandemic, the planned event was replaced by an online festival, HMS Leigh Make Do and Mend.