Fundraising bid to help Norfolk’s D-Day veterans return to Normandy

A fundraising campaign is under way to enable Normandy veterans to return to France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings in 2014.

The veterans, who are now in their 80s and 90s, face travel insurance costs of up to �2,000 meaning many wouldn't be able to visit the battlefields in Normandy and the graves of their fallen comrades again without financial help.

The Norwich and District branch of the Normandy Veterans Association wants to raise �20,000 for the return to France and is holding fundraising events, including a quiz at The Cottage in Louden Road, Cromer on September 20 at 2.30pm.

The quiz is being supported by the few remaining Normandy veterans in north Norfolk, including Margaret Dickinson, John Eastbury and George Gallagher, who all live in Cromer.

Mrs Dickinson, 90, joined Queen Alexandra's Military Nursing Service after finishing her medical training and went to Normandy shortly after D Day to set up the first British hospital there. At the age of 22, she followed the troops through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, treating injured soldiers in tents and temporary hospitals. 'It was a very different type of nursing,' she said. 'At first you just dealt with the casualties, dressed their wounds and repatriated them back home. We didn't think anything about it, we just got on with the job. As long as I had my tin hat I felt safe.' Mr Eastbury, 92, served as a member of the Royal Engineers and fought at Dunkirk before being sent to Arromanches, Normandy, the day after D Day. He said: 'When we got on our boat the first lot were coming back all wounded. Some bloke with a bandage round his neck said 'best of luck to you, it is murder over there'. As we got nearer we could hear the guns going off. I had been in the army a year or two by that point so it didn't matter as far as I was concerned.'

Mr Eastbury was shot in the arm several months later and repatriated to England. He moved to Cromer in 1964 where he was managing director or Rust's Wine Merchants.

Mr Gallagher was 20 years old when he landed on Juno Beach on the fourth day of the campaign as a member of the Royal Engineers 73rd Field Company, The company was tasked with building bridges across Europe's rivers for the advancing British army under enemy fire, including one that was mile long. He said: 'Everything seemed to be an adventure until I finally got in to some serious action. Then all I can remember experiencing is three things: apprehension, fear and terror.'

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Mr Gallagher, 88, urged people to support the fundraising appeal. He said: 'It is extremely important that people who want to can get back to Normandy. It is possibly the last time we will have the chance to visit the graves in Normandy because of our ages.'

Mr Gallagher, Mrs Dickinson and Mr Eastbury are not planning to travel to Normandy again because of ill health.

Teams of a maximum of four people are being sought for the quiz on September 20. Entry is free and there will be prizes on offer as well as nibbles and a raffle.