Gallery: Band of Brothers fly into Stansted Airport
EMOTIONS ran high at Stansted Airport on Monday as four of the soldiers who inspired the acclaimed Band of Brothers television series unveiled a special bronze plaque. Buck Compton, Donald Malarkey, Ed Tipper and Bradford Freeman, all aged 88, were invite
EMOTIONS ran high at Stansted Airport on Monday as four of the soldiers who inspired the acclaimed Band of Brothers television series unveiled a special bronze plaque.
Buck Compton, Donald Malarkey, Ed Tipper and Bradford Freeman, all aged 88, were invited to the terminal to share their incredible Second World War stories and to commemorate the part played by the Essex airport in securing victory for the allies.
Before tearing down a curtain placed over the wall-mounted tribute, heartfelt speeches were made by the ex-101st airborne division soldiers - none more so than an emotional Donald Malarkey.
Addressing the 300 onlookers, he said: "The UK is incredible country and coming over here to fight during the war were some of the proudest days of my life.
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"We all took part in the D-Day invasions and we are all part of the glorious rewards that history now shows.
"The greatest day of my life was meeting and talking to your brave leader, Winston Churchill. He was a great man and everyone here can be truly proud of him. The whole word owes him a great deal."
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Television series Band of Brothers was a huge hit with audiences around the world in 2001. Inspired by American paratroopers of the 101st division, it was based around soldiers' experiences during the final days of the war.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks executively produced the 10-part TV series, as well as the film Saving Private Ryan, which also told stories about the same group of men.
Such is the fame of the four soldiers, autograph hunters hung around for hours to chat to the heroes and get copies of DVDs signed by the each of them.
Stansted terminal general manager, Neale Jacques, paid tribute to their efforts and thanked them for making the day so special.
Mr Jacques, who previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the British Army and served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, said: "It is particularly poignant for me as it is also a trip down memory lane. As a commander abroad I can recognise and understand the band of brothers' mentality of togetherness. We hold them in very high esteem.
"To have them here to unveil the plaque shows our commitment to local heritage. The runway at this airport started life when it was built by the Americans at the beginning of the war - it is good for us to be able to have a visible memorial here to recognise the soldiers and airmen who served from this base."
Pictures: MICHAEL BOYTON (MEB_ 130709_Heroes)