The Spirit of Normandy Trust was proud and delighted that six Normandy Veterans, carers and supporters joined the Trust’s contingent at the 2016 Cenotaph parade on the 13th November. They were under the watchful eye of WO Baz Firth MBE, who acted as Platoon Commander, whose care and attention to detail was second to none and to whom we are extremely grateful. The veterans travelled from as far away as Cheshire and Wiltshire to attend and regrettably, at the last minute, two veterans were unable to join the group because of ill health. The event proved a “mammoth” effort for the veterans now all well into their 90’s. Everyone was required to be at Horseguards by 9am but did not “fall in” for the parade until around 11:30am and then proudly undertook the mile long march. A few were pushed in wheelchairs but two of the veterans marched the whole route unaided. It is regrettable that so many of the contingents that include WW2 veterans are so far back in the parade especially as it should be appreciated that there won’t be many years when they will be able to attend this very special parade. Thank you again Baz, also not forgetting his wife and son, the veterans, their carers and the others who were such a great support on the day.
This is a Veteran who travelled down from Cheshire and was accompanied by his grandson who flew over from the US to join him at the parade.
The Legacy Tour was organised by Mark Waring , Alan Ridley and the team of Return to Normandy 2016 , they raised the funds to take youngsters aged 10+ accompanied by a parent or grandparent , with 4 Normandy veterans and their carers, on a “whirlwind” trip to Normandy from 22 – 25th October. The group stayed in Arromanches and were delighted and appreciative to have the complimentary services of a well renowned guide Stuart Robertson.
Two of the pupils present had won free places in a competition. The veterans’ travel and accommodation was fully sponsored and the other participants received extremely generous rates subsidised by RTN2016. The places visited, amongst museums and other “quick stops”, were the British beaches, the American sector, Juno beach and Ranville Cemetery.
Mary & Ian Stewart, (Hon:secretary and Vice Chairman of the Spirit of Normandy Trust) met up with the group at several locations, to join their younger Grandson, who was accompanied by his Mum. They realised that being the youngest present it was a lot of detailed information for him to “take on board” . However, he like the others, all had a great rapport , especially the veterans , who were fully aware that this incredible opportunity and experience was something they will never forget, and will hopefully pass on to their children and grandchildren.
RTN2016 are to be congratulated on the concept of the project and their dedicated organisation. An enormous contribution to educating this, and the next generation. The veterans are “Living History” , whose company and experiences we are privileged to share.
Return To Normandy’s next event is a Christmas lunch to be held on 4th December in Portsmouth for Normandy veterans, families and supporters, for more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plans are already in place to take the veterans to Normandy in June and for further “Legacy Tours” in August and October 2017
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.
Our friends at Project 71 took a small team of volunteers and 3 Normandy veterans with the intention of planting a poppy/cross on every unknown grave in every CWGC cemetery in Normandy. They planted over 900 crosses in 15 Cemeteries and will be returning in July to finish the job by placing a further 300 crosses in three more cemeteries on the east of the Orne.