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400 veteran servicemen stop off for elevenses at South Holmwood, Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser

THE sun shone down and villagers lined the streets waving Union Flags as scores of Second World War veterans arrived in South Holmwood for their annual day out on Tuesday. Almost 400 former servicemen and Chelsea Pensioners – many displaying their medals – stopped off in the village as part of an event organised by the London Taxi Drivers' Benevolent Association for War Disabled. South Holmwood residents traditionally cater for the veterans each year when they stop off on their taxi journeys to Worthing for a civic lunch and entertainment. The community provided tea, coffee, homemade cakes and beer at the village hall in Warwick Road. Villagers Sue Fairbrother and Chris Wren are the principal organisers of the South Holmwood part of the event and over the years have made thousands of sandwiches and cakes as well as helped to organise fundraising events to help cover the costs. Reverend Virginia Smith, assistant vicar of South Holmwood, writing in the parish magazine said the veterans' visit was always a moving experience. She wrote: "Long before most of us are up an army of volunteers will have begun work in the hall making a mountain of sandwiches to go on the trestle tables already groaning with other homemade food prepared in advance of the day." Mrs Fairbrother stood outside the hall to wave off the last of the veterans after they had been refreshed. She said: "We had a bit of a slow start as the M25 was at a standstill so they all tended to arrive at once. There were 130 cabs and 400 people. We made gallons of tea and coffee and put out homemade cakes and sausages." She added: "The event started in 1948 and has been held at the village hall every year since." Helper Sarah Jones added: "As a child I used to look forward to seeing all the veterans here after school, so it is so good it is still happening. "It's very much a village affair. It's very nice to chat with the old boys and hear their stories and see their medals." Among those availing themselves of the refreshments in the hall was 89-year-old former Essex Regiment serviceman Stan Daines, 89, from Harwich, Essex. He was at the D-Day landings at Normandy – which took place 60 years ago this month – and was held as a prisoner-of-war in Germany for nine months after being wounded. "I returned to Normandy last week and I met a bloke who turned out to be my company's commander," he said. "I hadn't seen him for 70 years. "He was wounded at the same time as me. He told me that out of our group of 11, only three returned."

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