14-07-06

D DAY 2006

I'm recently in contact with Mr. John Flaherty who lives in Normandy (France) and is a guide there. He wrote quite an intresting story of his last visit in june 2006 and gve me the permission to use it on the blog. Check out the new mentioned websites in the "History" section.

 

Here's what mr. Flaherty wrote in the Atlantikwall yahoo group :

 

Hello from a sunny Normandy
Possibly the best D-day in recent years.
Firstly the weather was wonderful, not always the case, and because it was not a major anniversary the Great and the Good (our politicians) were absent leaving the event to the Veterans and their friends. The main American ceremonies were held on Memorial Day, last week. But that did not stop a good number of American Veterans being in Normandy over the D-day weekend. The first event was the 82nd Memorial Drop at La Fiere near Ste Mere Eglise. As usual American, British and French airborne dropped in front of a large crowd. In Ste Mere Eglise there was a carnival atmosphere over the weekend with many veterans mingling with re enactors, most of whom seemed to want to 101st Screaming Eagles, one couple I met came from the former Yugoslavia in a jeep!
Over the weekend many small events took place and several new monuments unveiled. One of there was at Gourbesville, a small village to the west of Ste Mere Eglise. The monument erected by the villagers remembers the 300 American servicemen from the 82nd and 90th who died in the liberation of the village.
As always the main focus on D-day is the British and Canadian Beaches. The first ceremony was mass at the cathedral in Bayeux, followed by a service in the nearby British Cemetery.
We laid flowers on the grave of a sixteen year old Royal Marine Commando (Lawrence Waygood) who died with the first wave at St Aubin when his landing craft hit a mine.
He was an orphan who like many lied about his age to join as many young men saw it as the Great Adventure.
My favourite is always Pegasus Bridge where again at mid day the survivors of John Howard's Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light infantry gather to march over the bridge they captured in the first operation of D-day. Every year less of them make it to Normandy and this year only five were able to make the pilgrimage. The British Army flew an Apache Helicopter low over the bridge in tribute.
After their ceremony the 7th Airborne march to the other side of the bridge for a short service and laying of wreaths.
In the early afternoon the focus turned to Juno and the service in front of the Canadian Juno Beach Centre. This year children were involved in all the events, reading poems, and giving veterans flowers. Here the school children had adopted a grave in the Canadian Cemetery at Beny and told us the history of the battle for the beach on D-day. They had made crosses and decorated them in school and later that afternoon would visit the cemetery and place them of their chosen graves.
Four in the afternoon and Gold beach was next. This year many of the events seem to have been organised by the local French Mayors with the help of the French Military. I think this will be the case in future years as the veteran associations members become less able. Here at Asnelles the French organised a fly past with four Mirage jets, flying low and slow they dipped their wing in salute to the veterans. Then the flags of all the nations who participated in the D-day landings were raised, prayers, speeches and wreath laying followed.
At 18:00 the final and biggest ceremony was held in Arromanches, there must have been over 1,000 veterans in the town. Every bar was full of old friends, telling their tales. The Somme Pipe Band who are here every year led the veterans on their parade.
I had a drink with an old soldier from the Scottish Regiment "Seaforth Highlanders" who had been captured at Dunkirk and had spent five years as a POW. His friends told me not to waste my time with him as he was a D-day Dodger, such was the humour.
I also met a young man who was helping the veterans, he seemed totally out of place. He told me that ten years ago he was always in trouble with the police and had been given a community service order. This meant he had to give up his free time to do charity work. That was ten years ago and his sentence long passed. He was still giving up a week of his holiday each year to be with the veterans long after he needed to.
Throughout the day a French Frigate sailed up and down the beaches, occasionally firing just to remind us of the Navy's involvement on D-day.
A fantastic and moving day, I wish you could have all been there to experience it with me.
Photos, and I took over 1,000 can be found on my site www.normandy1944.org.uk and follow links to "Events"

18:29 Gepost door Lexman in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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