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Norfolk D-Day veterans hailed at Bayeux Cathedral

PUBLISHED: 20:38 06 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:01 07 June 2018

Normandy veteran, David Woodrow, second left, sits in the stone seat at Bayeux Cathedral where he sat 74 years ago on the day after D-Day. With him are other members of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association,  Jimmy Roberts, left, Andy Wright, and veteran Len Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Normandy veteran, David Woodrow, second left, sits in the stone seat at Bayeux Cathedral where he sat 74 years ago on the day after D-Day. With him are other members of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association, Jimmy Roberts, left, Andy Wright, and veteran Len Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

They are a dwindling brigade of old soldiers, but the Normandy veterans - including those from Norfolk and Suffolk - cross the Channel again every year to mark the day the tide was turned against the Nazis.

Veterans Len Fox, seated, and David Woodrow, second right, of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association at the Royal British Legion Service at Bayeux Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYVeterans Len Fox, seated, and David Woodrow, second right, of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association at the Royal British Legion Service at Bayeux Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

When Len Fox first saw the beach at Arromanches on the morning of June 6, 1944, it was a million miles away from the gentle French seaside town it is today: it was, he said, “sheer hell”.

“I was 19 and had never been away from home,” said Len, a member of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans’ Association, “I didn’t know if I’d live to see another day. The shore was red with blood. I was terrified, but I was one of the lucky ones. The real heroes are the lads buried in the cemeteries here. That’s why I come back. For them.”

Five of the region’s veterans - Jack Woods, Harry Bowdery, David Woodrow, Alan King and Len - travelled to Normandy this week to return to the beaches, cemeteries and villages of northern France where they fought and where sacrifices and memories were made.

David, Alan and Len attended services at Bayeux Cathedral and cemetery yesterday, servicemen shoulder-to-shoulder at the Royal British Legion event 74 years after the Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied Europe. Bayeux was the first town to be liberated from Nazi occupation following the D-Day landings.

Veterans Len Fox, front, and David Woodrow, second left, of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association at the Royal British Legion Service at Bayeux Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYVeterans Len Fox, front, and David Woodrow, second left, of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association at the Royal British Legion Service at Bayeux Cathedral. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The veterans later attended a service at Bayeux Cemetery which bears the names of more than 4,100 of the Commonwealth land forces, including many British, who died in the Second World War.

There are also more than 500 war graves of other nationalities, the majority German and more than 338 unidentified men who died during the conflict also rest at the cemetery.

Afterwards the veterans reunited at a special set of ceremonies in Arromanches, known to the Allies as Sword Beach in 1944, one of five invasion beaches where 156,000 Allied trrops landed in 1944.

After being applauded by crowds and thanked for their bravery, the men all took a moment to reflect on a conflict that left so many of their friends lying beneath Normandy soil: “We come back because we need to make sure that no one ever forgets what happened,” said Jack, “not one of those we lost can ever be forgotten.”

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