D-Day Veterans Delight
05 March 2017
On the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the remaining survivors of the invasion will finally have a fitting memorial at which to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
Theresa May unveiled on Sunday £20 million funding for a national monument to commemorate those who died during and immediately after D-Day.
It will be built close to one of the beaches in Normandy where the Allied forces gained a foothold in June 1944 from which to defeat the Nazis.
The Normandy Memorial will contain the names of 21,000 members of the British Armed Forces and Merchant Navy and those from other nations who fought directly alongside them who lost their lives in the Normandy campaign. Americans and Canadians who fought at D-Day already have their own memorials.
The money will be set aside officially in the Budget, announced by the Chancellor Philip Hammond on Wednesday, to the delight of the estimated 500 or so veterans who fought in the Normandy landings and are still alive today.
The monument will be unveiled on the 75th anniversary in 2019 and is likely to be sited at either of two beaches: Colville Montgomery, code-named Sword Beach, where there is already a statue of Field Marshal Montgomery; or else at Ver-sur-Mer, which was given the code name Gold Beach.
Veterans and relatives of those who died will be asked to vote on which location they prefer.
George Batts, who was an 18-year-old sapper at D-Day and had campaigned for the memorial for many years, spoke of his delight.
Mr Batts, 91, a former national secretary of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, said: “I am just so pleased. I am over the moon. It has been my dream for a while.”
He had begun his campaign for a memorial when his father, a veteran of the First World War and a survivor of the Somme, died when in his 90s.
Mr Batts, who served for seven years in the Army, realised that his father’s generation risked being forgotten and that he wished his own should avoid the same fate.
I was just a little sapper at D-Day. I was only 18. But those we left behind were the real heroes. You can’t give more than your life. They lost their lives and now their names will go on the memorial.
Mr Batts, who has been awarded the Legion d’Honneur and an MBE, established a project to record interviews with 172 veterans who survived D-Day.
That completed, he turned his attention to recognising the many thousands who perished.
“I only found out on Friday that we were getting our memorial,” said Mr Batts, who lives in Maidstone, Kent. “I had a meeting in London on Friday about something completely different and out of the blue the phone rang and I was summoned to the Treasury to be told the news. I got so emotional over it.
“I was just a little sapper at D-Day. I was only 18. But those we left behind were the real heroes. You can’t give more than your life. They lost their lives and now their names will go on the memorial.”
We must never forget the courage, sacrifice and selflessness of the British servicemen and women who gave their lives in the D-Day landings.
With the memorial will also be built an information centre containing a computerised database allowing relatives and friends to search for the deceased, telling them where they died and where they are buried.
The memorial will be unveiled in Normandy on June 6, 2019, and the Queen, assuming she is fit and well, is already expected to attend as well as heads of state. How many Normandy veterans will make it is not clear.
The youngest survivors – such as Mr Batts – will be at least 93. The £20 million of government money will come from fines levied on the banking industry over the Libor bank lending rates scandal.
The extra money for the project – and the final price is not clear – will come from a public fundraising appeal to be launched today by the Normandy Memorial Trust and supported by the Royal British Legion.
The architect Liam O’Connor, who designed the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park and the Armed Forces Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum, is being lined up to design the D-Day memorial.
Mrs May, in announcing the funding for the memorial, said in a statement: “We must never forget the courage, sacrifice and selflessness of the British servicemen and women who gave their lives in the D-Day landings.
“Located close by the beaches where they began the liberation of Europe, the Normandy Memorial will be a fitting tribute to them and a place where people can gather to reflect on their extraordinary achievements.
“Its unveiling on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 will provide a timely reminder that we should never take our freedom for granted.”
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