D-Day veterans return to the Normandy beaches to pay their respects to the fallen

Norwich Normandy veterans ready to leave the city for France. From left, Normand Taylor, David Woodr

Norwich Normandy veterans ready to leave the city for France. From left, Normand Taylor, David Woodrow, Len Fox, Jack Woods, Alan King, Neville Howell, and Peter Hemp. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

It had seemed that they may have waged their last campaign – but a group of Second World War veterans have returned to the Normandy beaches to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

Members of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association set off from the city yesterday on a pilgrimage to northern France to mark tomorrow's 71st anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The group made the same trip last year as part of a major commemoration which was billed as the last time many veterans would make the arduous journey.

But the Norfolk contingent are determined to return once more, to honour their colleagues.

Jack Woods, secretary of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association, said: 'As long as we can go back, we will go back.

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'It's our duty to make sure those that didn't come back are never forgotten and to say thank you to them.

'Last year it was all pomp and ceremony because it was the 70th anniversary, but we come back regardless of the number. It's not about the big ceremonies, it's about the quiet moments.'

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Leaving from Norwich yesterday morning on a trip partly-funded by Eastern Daily Press readers – who raised more than £20,000 to ensure the veterans could pay their respects to comrades who never came home –the region's war dead will be honoured in France at a number of both large and small-scale ceremonies.

The Commemorations

They will take part in the official commemorations for D-Day at Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Arromanches tomorrow but will also be involved in a host of smaller events across Normandy.

The Mayor of Rots will host the veterans for an official lunch today, there will be remembrance services at cemeteries across the region and the group will preside over the official opening of the D-Day Academy. There will be a wreath-laying for Norwich veteran Ernie Mears, whose ashes were scattered at a special service at Hottot les Bagues last year and for veteran Reg Burge, who will be remembered at a wreath-laying ceremony at Asnelle tomorrow.

Veterans will visit memorials, be welcomed by French dignitaries and villagers and at the hotel they have stayed at for more than 10 years.

Stacia Briggs and Denise Bradley have joined the Norfolk veterans in Normandy – look out for more reports to follow.

• Are you planning an event to mark the anniversary? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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