Wednesday June 6th Rodney and Basher were in Bayeux today at the cathedral, but for us it was Ranville day, which was the first place to be liberated. Here, at the cross roads, there is a memorial to Major Jack Watson, who led the attack in Ranville. After this ceremony, as we walked to the church, Kate, myself and Bernard gave poppy stickers to the school children lining the street. They wait each year as the procession goes by waving their home made French and Union flags, and waiting for us to give them all a sticker. There is a service in the church, 2 other small ceremonies, and the main ceremony is in the cemetery, where the French lay flowers, which are later placed on graves, and the English lay their poppy wreaths, included is a wreath laid by Jacob, and Poppy Kay for their granddad Fred, Fred is still quite well, but unable to bend, so the grandchildren do it for him. Jacob is a scout, and we met them last year, after seeing them at St Vaast, in his uniform from our own district of scouting where we used to be scout and cub leaders in the UK. This year he is a scout and a proud one too. As usual there is the vin d’honneur, always very well done by them. Still attending are parachute regiment veterans, who tell their tales to anyone who is interested in the horrors they went through. They will tell you how they landed in trees, slept in ditches, fought, and dodged the Germans, and were looked after by the French. The French people still show their gratitude to them for liberating them.
Thursday was inspection day, on the instructions of the chairman, so as good citizens do, we obeyed.
Next it was on to Touffreville. As well as the big ceremonies, there are many memorials on the roadside, and personally I think these are the most moving, as they are for specific brave men, who were killed close by, with many of their descendants still attending the ceremonies of laying flowers and laying a poppy wreath in their memory. On one day we did 3 such ceremonies, one being the Thomas Wilson BILLINGTON and Private Arthur PLATT Memorial. Touffreville is where the 2 parachutists landed, and later in the day were seen being marched through the village by the Germans, later being seen in the hedge, shot through the head. Arthur Platt’s body was found, buried about 2 miles away in a field by the Germans, but only after the liberation, and is now buried in the cemetery in Ranville, but it took many years of research to find out who the other one was that was with him, because he was never found. Arthur Platt’s son, John, who was 5 at the time, and his wife Gwen go every year to lay a wreath and say a few words of thanks to these people for the memorial they have erected in his father’s memory. Many years later John found out that the other soldier was Thomas Wilson BILLINGTON, and his name was then added to the plaque. Flowers are also laid each year by the daughter of the lady who saw them lying in the hedge. Next it is onto the village cemetery, where the younger brother, John and his wife June, of the soldier buried there, are there every year to remember his brother. This year Ted Eaglen who has been given the freedom of Touffreville, and had a road, named after him, rue Ted Eaglen, sang the paras song, in year past there was someone who always used to play it on the harmonica, but sadly he has now passed on. These are the places that touch your heart, more than the huge ceremonies.
On the Friday, we were at Buezeville, here the standards are paraded through the town, and wreathes and poppies were laid, on the graves in the cemetery of our soldiers along with flowers laid by the Marie of Buezeville. Afterwards there is a wonderful buffet prepared by the school chef, if this is what the children eat there, why were my school dinners never like that. Here I decided to join the children, and play hop scotch, I fell in the playground, hit the floor just over the left eye, Many of you saw the results, an egg on my forehead, 2 black eyes, and as the days went on, bruises down to the chin. Glad to say now back to normal.
This year we also attended ceremonies for the Irish fusiliers, in the village of Longueval and Cambres en Plaine. We were invited to attend these by general Corran Purdon.
Four Very proud men
At the Pegasus ceremonies, we were given just a few limited editions for 2012 poppy pins. At one of the meals after a ceremony, when we had just one left we asked if I could auction it, which I did, and I got 35euro for it for the poppy appeal, many of you were able to buy these when our supply of poppy arrived for 2012.
At each ceremony the national anthems are played, so we hear them many times in a day, so it is my aim for next year to learn le Marseillaise.
Even though as you can see we had a laugh as well as the many, many serious events that we attended, because it is a serious few days, with lots of emotion, and respect for all those who risked their lives on, and just after June 6th 1944.