Norfolk Heroes of Normandy return to France to remember their fallen comrades
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
It was a day of mixed emotions and mixed weather, a day when heartfelt thanks were given to a group of heroes who made their first visit more than seven decades ago but whose legacy will last forever.
At Arromanches in Normandy, people of all nationalities and of all ages gathered in the same place as those who fought and died for the liberation of Europe during World War Two in June 1944: they came to give thanks and to remember the sacrifices made by so many.
Through intermittent showers, dozens of British Normandy veterans, including those from the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans' Association, from across the country were honoured at a ceremony which accentuated the importance of remembrance.
Lord Richard Dannatt led the salute and made a promise to the veterans: 'We pledge to you that while any of us have life and breath your memories will never be forgotten. Thank you.'
After a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne, where crowds linked arms to sing together, the veterans walked or were pushed in wheelchairs along Arromanches' high street which was lined with well-wishers, many with tears in their eyes, all offering their thanks to the men and women who helped secure freedom, firstly for France and then for occupied Europe.
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Norfolk and Suffolk's returning veterans, Jack Woods from the 9th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment, 31 Tank Brigade, David Woodrow from the 652 Air Observation Squadron, Royal Air Force, Len Fox, Royal Service Corps, Harry Bowdery, Royal Navy, Len Mann 12th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, Airborne Division and Alan King from the East Riding Yeomanry, 33rd Armoured Brigade were applauded as they passed the crowds.
'It means so much to us,' said David Woodrow, 93, 'seeing everyone so happy, this is what we did it for, this is why it was worthwhile.'
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Before Arromanches, veterans from the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans' Association attended a moving ceremony at nearby Asnelles where a wreath was laid for social secretary Kitty Burge, who died in May, shortly before making her annual pilgrimage to France to honour her late husband, Reg, who came ashore there on D-Day.