Gallery: Lytham’s 1940s Festival 2023

It seems a lost age and a foreign land, but growing up in the ’70s one was surrounded by the 1940s. Most of the World War II veterans were still around, boys comics featured stirring war stories, TV featured war movies, still shown at bank holidays.

My mum was an infant for most of it, but born in 1934, my dad remembered the war all too well. Sometimes you’d think he’d fought in it, even though he was just short of eleven when it finished. Victor comic was my entry drug to military history, although it should be noted that comic also featured comedy strips, football and the immortal working-class athlete, Alf Tupper.

So basically I’m a bit of a sucker for anything that’s likely to have World War II kit and that meant that I was on the bus on 20th August 2023 to frequent the Lytham 1940s festival, maybe titled not to sound so warlike as all that. There were five years of the ’40s left after the war after all.

As you can see I’ve selected my favourite black and white film, this time the supposedly budget Kentmere 400 iso 35mm. This film has a handy retro-look, even for black and white, and so I would say it was perfect for the job. The camera was a Leica CL fitted with a 35mm lens.

The service 11 bus dopped me off conveniently in Lytham town centre and I quickly strolled over to the stray where the action was happening, easily passing through the jammed up cars on the Promenade. Tents, displays, stalls and a fun fair were spread over a distance I would say, of not much short of half a mile.

Not everybody had arrived by car, or in my case, bus.

Firstly I headed for the lifeboat station, which I’d not been able to photograph on my last visit, due to it being closed for the Lytham Festival. This time it was open and I was able to get some pictures inside the building and some traditional ones outside.

As you would expect, there were a large number of re-enactors with their various hopefully de-activated or blank firing weapons on display. For some reason all sides seemed to have German stick grenades.

Some of the British contingent.

There were some weapons I was quite surprised to see, such as the British PIAT anti-tank weapon. I’ve read that these were unpopular with the troops, but maybe less so if they were being attacked by a Mark IV panzer. There were Bren guns galore as well as the Lee Enfield rifles and Sten sub-machine gun. There seemed to be at least an informal plan to display these in as bewildering a variety of mounts as possible.

PIAT anti-tank weapon front centre. A handy mortar to the left.

The German units were not to be out done with more stick grenades, various varieties of MG42 machine guns, MP40 sub-machine guns and the Mauser rifle. Someone even seemd to have the late issue German assault rifle, which still looks quite modern. There also seemed to be a sprinkling of Soviet weapons, including its distinctive drum magazine fed sub-machine gun.

‘German’ re-enactor with what seems to be an early assault rifle. The MG42 machine gun is to the right.

So that’s enough small arms porn. There was also quite a lot of heavy weaponry around, including a battery of the British 25 pounder field gun. These stayed in service for a long time after the war, which might explain why so many are still around. There was also what I think was a six-pounder anti-tank gun, but I couldn’t catch anyone to confirm this. There was certainly a wheeled Bofors anti-aircraft gun.

British 25 pounder field gun, with the rather more fun helter skelter in the backgound.
Another field gun complete with limber, containing ready ammo.
Bofors anti-aircraft gun.

I do wonder where all this stuff is kept. Can you get a field gun in a domestic garage? Where do you then put your car?

There were also plenty of interesting vehicles including armoured cars, but not all were military, there were also beautifully restored civilian automodiles, which set off on a parade. Back to militaria, the Willys jeep was much in evidence in a variety of allies’ markings. These also wanted to set off for a parade, but seemed to be having difficulty breaking into the traffic.

Not all had to be militaria.
Mascot pooch.
Plenty of female jeep drivers around. Not quite sure why that brick’s there.
There were some fine vehicles in the parade, but save me the fuel bill.
Where do you keep a World War II truck?

The event also featured a number of stalls, some for service charities, some for traders selling usually militaria related stuff, including a variety of replica weapons (I made no purchase). A mock up of a field NAAFI was selling authentic lunched. In a marquee a programme of musical entertainment was proceeding, but nothing caught my ear.

I should stress that people were clearly having a whale of time at this event and there was a really good atmosphere. Everybody seemed to be happy, and that’s saying something nowadays.

There was yet more to see and I was particularly struck by an unexploded bomb disposal unit, the personnel of which were clearly up for a laugh. There was a series called Danger UXB shown in the late ’70s; this scared me then and still scares me now. Of course UXBs still show up now, quite a lot in Germany. Recently a live ‘Tall Boy’ 12,000 lb bomb was found in a Polish river and had to be detonated.

Fun with the UXB team.

Also present was our own Spitfire Visitor Centre Hangar 42 display team with one of its replica aircraft. Almost bizarrely a Messerschmitt 109 aircraft was sat right next door.

Spitfire Visitor Centre team. I think that might be the mark IX.
The Spitfire’s deadly foe, the Messerschmitt 109.

After this I was pretty much done and headed off to find coffee and chocolate cake, the answer to all the world’s problems.

I should mention that there was also an excellent and very traditional fun fair for the children. This featured my all time favourite childhood fair ground attraction, a helter skelter, but also a carousel and a ferris wheel.

Fairground fun, a break from the war-mongering perhaps.

Replete with cake, I eyed the bus apps on my phone. Having not purchased a one company day ticket, I was able to catch the service 68 bus back to Blackpool and then the service 4 home.

With all the material available, it had been easy to shift my 36 exposure film the best of the results now being before you. I’ll be back next year, maybe there’ll be a tank. Oh, a fly by by a Hurricane fighter aircraft, British mainstay of the Battle of Britain, was scheduled but unfortunately I was out of credits and missed that.


Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Avatar photo

    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.