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D-DAY: Veterans go back to remember the fallen
SERVICEMEN from Oxfordshire who stormed the Normandy beaches in 1944 are returning to remember their fallen comrades, 70 years to the day.
Troops of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were the first across the Channel; Major John Howard, commanding the 6th Airborne division, captured the vital Pegasus Bridge river crossings on the Orne and Caen Canal, stopping the Germans sending more troops to the beaches.
Among those in Normandy today will be Patrick Churchill, right, from Witney, who was 21 when he took part in the Allied invasion as a Royal Marine Commando.
Now 91, Mr Churchill has gone to France with his wife Karin, 84.
Another is former Ox and Bucks Corporal Geoff Day, 77, who served in Cyprus in the 1950s alongside those who had fought on the beaches 70 years ago.
Mr Day, from Kidlington, said: “I was lucky enough to serve with one or two who were actually there and helped capture the bridge.
“Once you have served, you realise what people have gone through.
“As much as I can, I think about the men who were lost.”
Mr Day, who travelled to France with partner Andrea Isham, recently traced his family tree and discovered relatives who served in the Ox and Bucks in the First World War.
He added: “This is an opportunity to think of all of them.
“From a historic point of view, it is also a time to ask why we keep making the same mistake of going to war.
“It is frightening, horrible and best avoided.”
Another Oxfordshire serviceman returning to France is Paul Butler, an 18-year-old midshipman on Landing Craft 454 on June 6, 1944.
His task was to deliver tanks and his efforts were rewarded with the D-Day Medal.
The father-of-two travelled to Normandy with daughter Jan, 61, from Tackley, near Bicester.
Retired TA Major Terry Roper, now chairman of the Oxfordshire branch of the Royal Green Jackets Association, said: “This is an important day for everyone to remember.
“These old boys and girls are coming less and less now, it’s important to realise the sacrifices that generation gave, not just the services but the Home Front.
“It is very important that youngsters realise the sacrifices made for their freedoms, and that people in Europe realise those sacrifices were made for them as well.
“It reminds people of the magnitude of that invasion. It is a feat of arms I can’t see ever being repeated.”
- There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Major John Howard at All Angels Church, Clifton Hampden, at noon today.
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