72nd Anniversary of the Normandy Landings
An important commemoration
June this year, as in so many previous years, saw a large number of Normandy veterans travelling to France to take part in a wide range of commemorative events. There were numerous events across Normandy over the first week or so of June. The events captured in this newsletter are just a flavor of some of those that were held. 72 years on from the operation that freed France, and ultimately Europe, from a sinister and oppressive regime, the events were as emotional and meaningful as always.
Saturday 4th June
Some of the major events started with the ceremony in front of the statue of Field Marshal Montgomery at Colleville Montgomery, which sits at Sword Beach.
The French Military Academy of Lorient decided this year to hold a ceremony at Colleville Montgomery on the morning of 5th June, which meant that the main commemorative event had to be moved to the 4th June. It was very well attended and was a very special event as it was the 20th anniversary of the unveiling of Montgomery’s statue. The Honourable Henry Montgomery, grandson of Field Marshal Montgomery was present at the service and spoke of the pride that his Grandfather would have had at the way the veterans continued to return to Normandy to remember the campaign and their comrades.
The Service at Colleville Montgomery was led by Rev Mandy Reynolds. The Dutch Band of Liberation provided the music and led veterans for a march past as they went to the sea front for a vin d’honneur, the salute being taken by the Mayor of Colleville Montgomery.
Saturday 5th June
A further, more informal, Service was held at the statue of Montgomery on 5th June for those who were unable to change travel arrangements to attend the service on 4th June.
The Mayor of Colleville Montgomery spoke at the Service and the event was led by Richard Palusinski, Chairman of the Spirit of Normandy Trust.
A number of other commemorative events were held at locations including Pegasus Bridge, Rots and the Jerusalem Cemetery in Chouain, all of which were attended by Trustees from the Spirit of Normandy Trust.
A large number of organisations worked together to make the events this year a great success. These included the Royal British Legion, Return to Normandy, Project 71, D Day revisited, the D Day academy, The Mairies of Colleville Montgomery and Arromanches and many others. A huge vote of thanks must go to them all.
Sunday 6th June
As in past years, the main commemorative events were held in the Cathedral and Military Cemetery at Bayeux. Both Services were very well attended.
The day started with a 10.00 a.m. Service in Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux. Seats towards the front of the nave were reserved for veterans. The Service commenced with marching in the Standards. The Dutch Band of Liberation again provided the music.
Following the Cathedral Service, veterans, families and friends gathered at the British Military Cemetery for a commemorative service at midday.
The Service was very well attended and was a poignant and moving ceremony.
During this Service at Bayeux Cemetery the Exhortation was given by Hector Duff L d’Hon and the veterans’ prayer was read by Fred Harris L d’Hon, both veterans of the Normandy Landings
Later that day veterans again gathered at Arromanches for a parade and Service on the sea front by the D Day Museum. Chairs were provided and a heavy sea mist cleared in time for the start of the commemorative Service. Umbrellas were provided for veterans to help keep the sun off them. Rev Mandy Reynolds led the Service and the Mayor, M Patrick Jardin, and his deputy, M Adrian Cox, spoke warmly of the bravery and fortitude of the young men who landed on the beaches of France so many years ago.
Meanwhile back in the UK
On D Day, 6th June, a Service was held at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas. On a gloriously sunny day veterans, friends and families joined together for a memorial ceremony. Approximately 150 people attended and the Service was led by Rev Dr David Bennett, Chaplain for the Federation of Birmingham Ex-Service Associations and Normandy Service Veteran Association.