Abingdon Royal British Legion has named its bar after one of the first casualties of the D-Day landings  - a 20-year-old airman from the town named Raymond 'Bunny' Charles Belcher.

The move is one of a series of events organised by the Spring Road social club to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. It is also holding an afternoon cream tea for veterans.

The bar has been named after Lieutenant Belcher, the officer in charge of a harbour landing party whose plane was shot down by flak after reaching the Normandy coast in the early hours of June 6, killing all on board.

READ MORE: Historic village pub is looking for new owners 

Known affectionately as Bunny to his parents living in the Vineyard, Abingdon, he had been married for just six months to wife Kay, an ATS corporal who was expecting a honeymoon baby.

From Brighton College to a commission at Sandhurst, Lt Belcher had volunteered for parachute duties, his Stirling Bomber taking off from RAF Fairford at 2340 hrs on June 5 as part of the D-Day Pathfinders - Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment.

Oxford Mail: Stephen King at the renamed barHis story was discovered by Stephen King, a local military historian and author.  Mr King’s great, great, uncle Percival was the first man from Abingdon to be killed in the First World War and King Street in Abingdon is named after him.  

Mr King has been working with Clare Oldfield, Abingdon’s Poppy Appeal organiser and said: “Bunny was a young man with his hopes and aspirations ahead of him but sadly that was not to be, indeed he may have been one of the very first D-Day casualties - we remember the courage of them all.”

Lt Belcher was part of the spearhead force for the Normandy Landings whose job was to jump with the leading pathfinder units, reconnoitre and secure the area to which the regiment would later deploy by glider.

Just before midnight on 5/6 June 1944, he took off in a converted Stirling of 620 Squadron from RAF Fairford.

The plane was hit over France, killing everyone on board. For months, the crash site was deemed too dangerous for recovery of the bodies.

On June 17, wife Kay received the telegram everyone dreaded:  Lt R C Belcher was reported missing on June 6. “The Army Council express sympathy. Letter follows shortly”.

Oxford Mail: Ray 'Bunny' BelcherThe Ray 'Bunny' Belcher bar was unveiled on Saturday when members of the D-Day Normandy Federation visited the club. 

Loose Cannon brewery has renamed one of its beers in honour of Lt Belcher and members toasted his memory with the special beer named Abingdon Pathfinder.

Mrs Oldfield said: "We are proud to be naming the bar after Bunny. The sacrifices made, from the first to the last casualty, deserve to be honoured and remembered."

Oxford Mail: Pathfinder - the new Loose Cannon beerThe Normandy landings took place on June 6, 1944.

It was the largest seaborne invasion in history, and the operation began the liberation of France.

• To apply for a place at the Abingdon Royal British Legion afternoon cream tea on June 8 please email abingdon.poppies@gmail.com .

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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