BLACKBURN with Darwen fell silent to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

One of the focuses of the borough’s tributes to the thousands who perished on the opening day of the assault on Normandy was a poignant ceremony outside Blackburn Town Hall.

Infantrymen from the East Lancashire Regiment’s 8th Battalion formed part of the 33rd Armoured Brigade for D-Day.

Later the 1st and 5th Battalions would press on for Caen, with B Company seeing action at St Contest.

This contribution, and later campaigns in Belgium and Holland, before the sweep across Germany, would earn the regiment the Freedom of Blackburn and later Burnley, before a decade was out.

Speaking yesterday, Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Cllr Jim Shorrock, a former serviceman, paid tribute to those who never made it beyond the sands of Normandy, to preserve a lasting peace for Europe.

He said: “As someone who served in the Royal Air Force in the late 70s and into the mid-80s, I understand deeply the human cost of war.”

Later he spoke with some of the younger guests about the significance of the landings, and their place in the context of the Second World War.

The poem Little Ships was read out by Saoirse O’Neill, a student at Westholme School, before the Union flag was raised and an immaculate two-minute silence observed.

Canon Andrew Horsfall, of Blackburn Cathedral, then led those assembled, including Blackburn MP Kate Hollern and Cllr Mohammed Khan, borough council leader, in prayer.

Meanwhile Cllr Iftikhar Hussain, deputy mayor, officiated at a similar gathering, organised in association with the Royal British Legion, outside Darwen Town Hall.

The borough has a number of curious links with the events of D-Day - and the battle to deceive Hitler into thinking Calais was a more likely landing stage.

Ninety-thousand gallons of white Walpamur paint, made in Darwen by Crown’s predecessor, was used to camouflage planes used during the D-Day operation.

A fleet of US Army lorries were deployed to take the consignment from East Lancashire to aerodromes, so white stripes could be painted all over the crafts.

Stephen Irwin, Blackburn Museum’s education officer, has also learned of a potential connection between the former Star paper mill, in Feniscowles, and the production of ‘window’, thin silver strips of paper dropped from the air to fool enemy radar.

“Those involved were asked to make the thin strips, they were packaged up, then they had to sign the Officials Secrets Act,” he added.

The 13th Lancashire Parachute regiment also had an unusual comrade - para-dog Bing was dropped behind the lines to track enemy positions. He earned a Dickin Medal, the canine equivalent of a Victoria Cross.