Posted by: madkentdragon | June 6, 2011

A Visit to D-Day Cemeteries Remembered


Well it wasn’t exactly on D-Day, but several years ago, the Royal British Legion in Kent arranged a pilgrimage to the cemeteries from WWII in Normandy.

Each day we would climb aboard the coach and visit a different town, museum and of course at least one cemetery to pay tribute to those who had fallen, lay a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice and also to lay crosses or small poppy posies on behalf of a relative.

Looking round these cemeteries was humbling and to me interesting – I could at last see the wreaths laid on graves as requested by their relatives, it was part of my job at the Poppy Appeal to liaise with the Commonwealth War Graves to enable the wreaths to be laid.

As we arrived at each cemetery, the County Parade Marshall would muster the parade and, with the Standards carried at the front, we would
parade to the Cross and hold a short service and a wreath from Kent County RBL would be laid. We would then dismiss to explore the cemetery.

When we arrived at the American Cemetery, we were pleased to see young Americans acting as guides to the elderly veterans, wearing their forage caps and taking them round the very large cemetery.

As we disembarked from the coach, people stopped to stare as we mustered to parade to the main memorial to hold our little service and lay our wreath. To our amazement as we mustered, these veterans as one man mustered with us – perhaps it was the sight of the bugler – or the half dozen or so standards on parade – I don’t know, but our parade swelled from 35 to nearly 100.

We paraded to the memorial and formed a circle round it, the service was held – and when it came to The Lord’s Prayer – I have never heard it said in unison by so many different accents and languages; it was a marvellously moving moment.

The last post played and many an old arm raised in salute; the wreath was laid, we dismissed and spoke to many of these veterans and listened to their stories as their guides hung round trying to collect their charges.

As we said goodbye to them and left to go on to another cemetery, I looked back and saw several of them waving to us and that visit will be a day I’ll never forget.

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Responses

  1. Hi Pat

    I couldnt agree more, before I joined Special Forces I was in the Parachute Regiment, we used to go to Arnhem each year, standing their amongst all the Airborne soldiers was a strange feeling, a little like visiting a family grave, even after leaving the army I still go back whenever I can. The bond between old comrades, regardless of which war they fought in is something very special, and although you may never have met the man before, and may never again, its like talking to a long lost friend. There is a poem in my book “From the corners of a wounded mind” which explains how old soldiers feel on these occasions, if you want a copy I will send you one.


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