D-Day 75th Anniversary: Veterans to stand for commemoration on Normandy's shores
For the 75th anniversary of what's referred to as 'D-Day' - a special landing operation in France by the Allied forces during World War 2 - an ever-smaller number of veterans will stand on Normandy's shores for a commemoration. Many will also salute fallen comrades from their wheelchairs. Kitty Logan has more.
75 years ago, American soldiers were preparing a secret mission. They chose a Trebah Bay, a discreet cove in Cornwall with deep water to allow naval ships to dock. Footage discovered by historian Tony Koorlander shows troops from the US 29th Infantry Division loading up for the D-Day offensive. Today the same beach is a picture of tranquility, but wartime memories linger.
KITTY LOGAN TREBAH BAY, CORNWALL "In the days ahead of D-day, around seven thousand American troops set off quietly from this tiny secluded cove in darkness. They then joined the rest of the fleet departing Britain's shores for Normandy. Their final destination was Omaha beach and many of them would not survive there."
The local community gathers to remember those American soldiers every year at the same beach they left from. They also honour local veterans who fought in France 75 years ago. In 1944, Ken Angell was a soldier with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. His unit crossed over to France in gliders and fought in some of the toughest battles.
KENNETH ANGELL D-DAY VETERAN "We got over to France. They started shooting at us. They all knew we were coming. We were destined to go to Herouvillette and hold the high ground outside Herouvillette. We were in there 3 months. And every day – night and day – there was shelling."
Trebah Gardens puts on a who for their veterans who fought in France. But they also remember the role this place played in D-Day.
Troops from 29th infantry came here to train and prepare months ahead. Kally Hutchings was only eight when American soldiers arrived in her village. She still remembers the day everything changed.
KALLY HUTCHINS LOCAL RESIDENT "One day I was walking home from home from school, there was all these jeeps stationary, one behind the other, all full of young Americans and we were told to get off the roads."
Despite their obvious presence in the area, the US mission was shrouded in secrecy. Residents along this sleepy coastline had no idea why American troops were there.
SILVIA KING LOCAL RESIDENT "We didn't understand and we didn't know what was happening, because they were building a pier at Trebah beach. I lived at Durgan and I could see them building the pier. But no-one knew what the pier was being built for."
As well as a memorial to allied forces Trebah has dedicated a special plaque to the US troops they hosted.
KALLY HUTCHINS LOCAL RESIDENT "When I go to Trebah, look at the plaque and feel that nearly all those were killed. I think all those we passed, because the jeeps were really full."
For those who survived, the sadness over lives lost has lingered for a lifetime.
KEN ANGELL D-DAY VETERAN "One of the worst times was coming back and going in to our barracks. We all went back to the same barracks. And I looked around and all those empty beds. That was the worst time."
Today's military recognises that sacrifice. Laying a wreath in the waters where the American soldiers left from. Those troops had no idea what awaited them as they headed out to sea. But the people here will never forget that they're gone. Kitty Logan, CGTN, Trebah, Cornwall.