Friday, June 6, 2014
Hundreds of people gathered in Norwich to mark the 70th anniversary of the landings at a service of remembrance and commemoration.
Veterans assembled at the war memorial as bagpipes signalled the opening of the service. Leading the ceremony, the Rev Janet Wyer said: “We can look back and say that day, D-Day, was the day that saw the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe.”
The service had been organised by the Norwich branch of the Normandy Veterans Association for members who were not able to travel to France. A party of 16 members of the group are currently in Normandy, on a trip part funded by the EDP and Evening News.
Yesterday’s event in Norwich was timed to match the one in Bayeux, and Rev Wyer said this was an important way of connecting with the Norfolk veterans in Normandy.
She said: “We are separated by distance… but we are united with them in this act of commemoration.”
John Gosling, 73, retired, Norwich, said: “It was a brilliant thing they did, and they have done the country proud. They gave their lives to save ours and that’s touching.”
Keith Starkings, 69, bus driver, Old Catton, said: “I’m glad they went. My father was in the war, though he wasn’t involved in D-Day. I’m glad they had the guts to go.”
Sally, retired, Norwich, said: “Many of them were young and naïve as to what was going to happen. It was an amazing exercise. Considering they didn’t have the technology then we have now, it is amazing that anything happened at all. They were all collectively brave.”
Jo Ainsworth, 53, nurse, central Norwich, said: “The soldiers were very brave and I think they felt what they were fighting for was the right cause; fighting for their country.”
Hayden Richie, 70, retired, Thorpe St Andrew, said: “The soldiers were brave; if I had been around at that time I don’t think I could have done it. They went beyond the call of duty and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here now.”
Joan Dugdale, 55, unemployed, Old Catton, said: “You can’t comprehend or understand what those soldiers must have gone through. It’s just incredible.”
Len Mann, chairman of the Norwich and District branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, read Laurence Binyon’s The Fallen, which was followed by the Last Post and a two-minute silence.
Mr Mann, 89, and MP Chloe Smith laid the first poppy wreaths on the memorial, followed by veterans and schoolchildren from Thurton and Blofield Junior Schools.
The standards then led the procession into St Peter Mancroft Church where General The Lord Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, gave an address.
During the service, Charlotte Rix from Thurton Junior School read a poem and the whole church joined in saying the Normandy Veterans Prayer.
After the ceremony, Lord Dannett said: “To me it is a day of great commemoration and I think it’s a great day of good thankfulness.
“One reflects on the fact that 156,000 people stormed ashore on this day 70 years ago from 5,000 ships supported by 4,000 aircraft and they did it.
“I think we just have to support and reflect and give great thanks for the sacrifice of those who lost their lives.”
Normandy veteran Mr Mann, who spent 6 days at sea before storming the beaches on D-Day and going on to attack Br é ville said the ceremony was ‘absolutely marvellous’.
He added: “Our secretary and myself have been doing everything to organise this. I’m really please so many people have turned out.”