80th D-Day Anniversary Remebrance & Commemoration

On Thursday, June 6, 2024 the nation came together to remember the tens of thousands of allied forces who gave service on D-DAY eighty years ago and helped secure the peace we in the UK enjoy today.

Biggleswade hosted a unique day of remembrance and commemoration to honour the occasion.

The Shuttleworth Collection showcased five of their wartime vehicles in the town square, along with their 111-year-old double-decker bus for everyone to appreciate.

 

Rev. Liz Oglesby-Elong led a short service at the War Memorial, followed by the laying of wreaths. 

Councillor Jonathan Woodhead, delivered an address highlighting the importance of D-Day and the contributions and achievements of the Normandy veterans. 

Cllr Woodhead explained that D-Day, which was more accurately named ‘Operation Overload’ had been the start of the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule and explained that it was one of the largest invasion forces in history. He said “During the planning of D-Day it was decided there would be five beaches on the Normandy coast of France where the Allied forces would land. The beaches were codenamed – Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold and Sword.
Utah and Omaha were US landing beaches, Juno predominantly Canadian, with Gold and Sword beaches predominantly British. This seaborne invasion would be supported by parachutists and glider borne troops landing a few hours before the main wave on the beaches”.

Cllr Woodhead went on to mention a few people without all of whom Allied victory would not have been possible. “Firstly, Cyril Richardson, Royal Navy, an Able Seaman who served on Gold Beach who is with us today. It’s great to have you with us Cyril. Thank you for what you did all those years ago”. 

“Mentions should also go to William York of the Green Howards Regiment whose son David York is a lifelong resident of Biggleswade. William was on Gold Beach on D-Day and was later injured in the campaign. Further mentions should go to Charles Cook, a former Mayor of Biggleswade who served in Normandy and later lost a leg in that campaign. He was also later known for his bus and travel company Cooks Travel. Another former Mayor and Bedfordshire County Councillor, Vic Brunt, also served in the Royal Navy on a Landing Craft Tank (LCT) on Gold Beach”. 

Cllr Woodhead added that a specific mention needed to be made for Denis Sale, a former Town Clerk of Biggleswade Town Council, who was deployed with the Royal Tank Regiment. Denis served with A Sqn of the 7th Battalion RTR and came ashore in Normandy in his Sherman tank named ‘Janet’ in late June 1944. Denis was later awarded the Military Medal (aged only 21) for keeping the communication lines open near Le Havre. “Denis and ‘Janet’ went all the way through to Germany by the wars end”, added Cllr Woodhead. 

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The service ended with the unveiling of a Memorial Bench by Cyril Richardson RN, the oldest WWII veteran residing in Biggleswade alongside the youngest Sea Cadet.

The Bigg Theatre screened the epic movie ‘The Longest Day’.

Various food and drink stalls were dotted around the Market in the evening.

The day ended with the lighting of the beacon in the Market Square.

Chairman of the Biggleswade Branch of the Royal British Legion, Diane Keogh said “ it was a memorable day and I want to thank everyone who attended the short service”.

Mrs Keogh went on to give her thanks to the shops in the town who decorated their windows. “It was heartwarming to see many shops and people still care”, she said.

She expressed her deepest thanks and gratitude to all who helped make the event possible and added ‘Once again Biggleswade you excelled’.

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