ASSOCIATION COMMEMORATIONS JUNE 2004 ARROMANCHES
Due to the security problem in Normandie for the visit of 17 Heads of State and the fact that Her Majesty the Queen was due in Arromanches itself for the parade of Normandy Veterans on the 6th June, our usual parade and service which Surrey Branch N. V. A. kindly invite us to join with them each year and held on the 6th June in Arromanches, had to be carried forward to the Saturday the 5th June. A fair sized contingent of our LST & Landing Craft members including John Harris and his Cornish Regional Squad and representatives from Falmouth Fire Brigade joined in the service. At the conclusion of the service the now regular feature of 'Auld Lang Syne' was enjoyed by hundreds. The Norfolk and Suffolk Army band who were booked to parade and play at the service unfortunately were held up in the traffic congestion in Normandie and arrived late. Not to disappoint the throng in Arromanches, the band resplendent in their scarlet uniform, assembled on the steps of the D-Day Museum and gave a concert of their music. In the afternoon too the Commemorative Insignias presented to Veterans by the French Normandy council were distributed. On the 6th June, through the efforts of S/M John Harris and myself we were able to hold our own Association parade. At 12 noon a strong Association party assembled outside Le Pappagall and this time were joined and supported by Surrey branch Normandy Veterans. Surrey's Parade Marshall Wilf Jackson kindly offered his services with the result that we had a very smart turn out and as other Normandy Veterans from other branches asked if they could join us, we finished up with around 90 on parade. Ex Royal Doug Harvey who is a piper volunteered to lead the parade, that would have been great but we had a bonus as Doug had his connections and in the end our parade was led by the full Somme Pipe Band. A short march to the sea front to our association memorial plaque in front of the D-Day museum. After the Exhortation, wreaths were laid, S/M Jack Culshaw laid the wreath on behalf of the association, a small Poppy wreath was laid in memory of our late Vice President Bill Chalk, Bill instigated the original bronze memorial which had to be replaced as the atmosphere on the sea front was detrimental to its well being. Wreaths were laid from various concerns and at the end of the day TEN wreaths had been laid. There was also a series of plastic covered cards giving the thoughts and views of school children and written by themselves from a school in Harlow. Their words were very poignant and indeed when reading those and the cards attached to the wreaths gave another emotional experience, amongst others one being :- "In remembrance of my own R.M. (30A.U) en famillie at Arromanche. Michelle an Henretta et la famille xx . A short march back to Le Pappagall to be dismissed.
In the afternoon we were given instructions to make our way to the assembly area for the NVA Parade about half a mile out of Arromanches. We did not want for a thing, we were very well looked after by the British Army, food drink and every attention given to us, nothing was too much trouble for these 'younger lads'. They were a credit to themselves and made us all feel 'Proud to be British'!. Making ourselves comfortable we watched the ceremony taking place at the top of the hill at Arromanches with seventeen heads of state in attendance on a big big screen. During that time President Mike Cresswell arrived with Association members from the two coaches that had travelled overnight from the UK to take part in the ceremonies in Normandy.
Unfortunately due to the security arrangements that were in place and the fact that the association party had to catch the overnight ferry back to the UK, were detailed to report back to this assembly area at 1900 hours. Instructions were that the coaches had to leave on time, anyone adrift would have to be left behind, it was felt that as the parade in Arromanches where Her Majesty would take the salute was so late, there would not be enough time for that group to take part in the parade and be able to return to the coaches for a 1900hrs depart. Unfortunate that S/M Ann Cutter was not able to parade our National Standard on this auspicious occasion. ( I anticipate Mike C. will report on their exploits).
There were still several association members, including John Harris and the Cornwall Shipmates and several of us who were staying in Arromanches that were able to take part in the parade. There was a considerable long wait after being assembled for the 'Off', the heat of the day did not make the wait comfortable. The army lads kept us well supplied with Adams ale and a bonus too was a constant treatment of a spray on the face and back of the neck by a squad of young French ladies. This treatment was lapped up and none refused!. The parade took us through the shops part of Arromanches and both sides of the road the crowds were jam packed, there must have been thousands giving us veterans a very big 'Thank you', that in itself was an emotional time. Her Majesty took the salute from the dias in the square in Arromanches and with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Mayor of Arromanches met Veterans who were in the first two or three rows. Some of our wives were fortunate that they were able to view the whole ceremony from a bedroom window at the Normandie Hotel at the kind invitation of Betty Gull who was staying at that hotel with our shipmate Terry. What an eventful day, as was 60 years ago, but this one 2004 was the more enjoyable.
No doubt many of our members have their own individual stories to tell and some may have forwarded to the Kedge Hook Editor, I do feel that just as we were involved so much all those years ago that the LST & Landing Craft were well represented this year 2004 and on behalf of the Management Committee and from myself a sincere 'Thank You' to all members who represented the Association during the commemorative period, this side in the UK at various ceremonies and of those that travelled to Normandie. One of my old skippers used to say (not very often though) "Well Done that Man"! For this event we must say "Well done ALL those men" not forgetting support from the Ladies.T.C.