Page 278 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
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Personal Reflections of 75th Anniversary of D-Day
On June 6th, 2019, over 250 D-Day veterans gathered in Bayeux CWGC to attend a service of remembrance to commemorate the events that took place in the region seventy-five years ago. Together with Ron Cooper (who had travelled all the way from Australia to attend) I was fortunate to be one of those in attendance. Having travelled out to Normandy a few days previous, my primary intention was to mark the action of the various DLI battalions who participated in the campaign.
Wednesday June 5th necessitated a visit into Caen in order to pick up our security passes for proceedings on the following day. After this an attempt was made to visit Pegasus Bridge, scene of the 6th Airborne Division landing early June 6th. As this had been hailed as the last major gathering of veterans, it appeared that a great influx of visitors together with the local populous thousands were determined to attend the various commemoration events This resulted in the entire area brimming with people. After standing in stationary traffic for 45mins – still well away from the bridge - all attempts to reach it were abandoned and by using a torturous circular route via small country lanes we made our way to Merville Battery. This was the site of a strong German coastal gun battery and was attacked early on June 6th by the 9th Parachute Battalion as part of Operation Tonga. At the site, in addition to the remains of the gun emplacements a reconstructed WWII army camp had been setup and after queuing for quite a while, admittance was eventually gained. The visit around the site proved informative and thought provoking.
Next day dawned bright and sunny and after passing through security checks we made our way into Bayeux CWGC. Space had been reserved for the veterans around the cross of sacrifice - where the service was centered. However it was noticeable by the start of proceedings an awful lot of VIPs appeared to be closer to proceedings than the veterans! Standing there viewing the proceedings it was a sobering thought for those of a certain age to think that in a few year’s time no more veterans will be left to relate the events of 75 years ago. It was especially poignant for this year the DLI had lost two more of it’s remaining veterans and personal thoughts wandered to the past when on previous visits to the cemetery we actually had veterans who could tell of the invasion.
After the service people could mingle among the headstones. Many deep in thought with personal memories of the people commemorated there. It was especially moving for Ron Cooper as he stood before the grave of his uncle, Pte George Smith, 9th DLI who was Kia June 14th 1944.
After the service we visited Ver-sur-Mer and Gold Beach. It was here the 151st Brigade (6th; 8th; 9th DLI.) had landed on June 6th and a wreath was laid on behalf of the Regiment in memory of those who had landed all those years ago and in particular the veterans who had accompanied us on previous tours (Maj Ian English MC**; Dickie Atkinson; Charles Eagles; Ken Lodge; Ernie Harvey).
Friday 7th, the emphasis changed to the area
around Tilly-sur-Seulles and remembrance of the actions involving 151st Brigade from June 9th to 14th. The first commemoration took place at the small village of Verrieres where the 6th Bn. DLI attacked on the morning of June 14th 1944. Here we were privileged to have in attendance Major James Corrigan (6th & 9th Bn DLI) a D-Day veteran. He must be almost the last DLI veteran who is still with us. Wreaths were laid at the memorial to the fallen. Then onto the village in Lingevres where again wreaths were laid at the DLI memorial in front of the church. The memorial being on the very ground where dead and wounded members of 9th Bn DLI were laid following their bloody attack on the village 14th June 1944. Amongst attendees was the son of General John Mogg, who took over command of the Bn. following the death of Lt Col H Woods, which occurred during the attack on the village. In the afternoon a crowd gather in the village of St Pierre just outside Tilly-sur-Seulles to honour amongst others, men of 8th Bn. DLI who fought so valiantly from June 9th - 12th to liberate the village before being ordered by GHQ to withdraw. The day concluded outside the museum at Tilly where all the troops who fought in and around the village were honoured and remembered,
In total during the three actions at St Pierre, Verrieres and Lingevres each participating DLI Bn.
Major James Corrigan DLI D-Day Veteran who served in the 6th & 9th Bn’s DLI in 1944
 151 (Durham,) Brigade consisted of 6, 8 & 9 Bn’s DLI

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