Crowds gather together to remember D-Day sacrifices 70 years on

VIDEO: Crowds gather together to remember D-Day sacrifices

NEVER FORGOTTEN: Portland D-Day service in Victoria Gardens

RESPECT: Heads bowed at the Dorchester service

MY STORY: Denis Over

First published in News
Last updated

CROWDS gathered across Dorset to remember the heroic deeds of those who fought for their country on D-Day 70 years ago.

A service of remembrance was held at the Keep Military Museum in the county town and Les Cuff from the Royal British Legion, who organised the event, said he was surprised to see so many people turn out to pay their respects.

See a video here

He said: “It was an absolutely marvellous turn out and everything went so well.

“The weather helped us and we had the Durnovaria Silver Band playing there, which made the event in lots of ways because it’s something we’ve never had before.

“People came from far and wide and I was very pleased.”

Mr Cuff thanked all those who turned out for the occasion and thanked the Keep Military Museum and deputy town clerk Steve Newman from Dorchester Town Council for their support in putting on the service.

He said: “Everybody really enjoyed themselves, which is what it’s partly for as well as to remember those who left the Dorchester area and never came back.”

More than 100 veterans, residents, standard bearers and schoolchildren joined in the D-Day memorial on Portland at Victoria Gardens.

See a video here

Hymns and prayers were said and the national anthems of both the UK and the US were sung.

Sea Cadet buglers sounded the last post as the community remembered all those who had passed through Portland on their way to fight in Normandy.

Mayor of Portland Rob Hughes said it was an ‘absolute honour’ to be part of the service. He said: “It was a real community coming together.”

Veterans and world leaders, including the Queen, gathered on Sword beach in Normandy for the main commemoration event.

Sword was one of the five beaches used by the Allied forces for the D-Day landings.

Wreaths were laid in remembrance and there was a 21-gun salute and military fly-past.

'We landed on the beach'

ONE of the Normandy veterans remembering his comrades yesterday was Denis Over, who landed on Juno Beach as a soldier of the fifth battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Denis Over, aged 92, now lives in Broadmayne. He was 22 years old when he took part in the Normandy Landings. He and others landed on the beach as part of the Canadian Division.

“We were awakened by a voice over the loudspeaker system crying, ‘Wakey, wakey, rise and shine. It’s four o’clock and a fine morning and you mustn’t be late for the party.’ “Everyone was soon bustling with activity, and, washed and shaved, I went along for breakfast. It was still pretty dark, a gale was blowing and the sea looked pretty rough.

“At last our call came – ‘Serial 1497, go to your boat stations now.’ We all trooped up the companionway and up to the top deck opposite our landing craft assault. The Canadians piled in first and we filled up the back.

“As we made our way towards the shore we passed Landing Craft Tanks with self-propelled guns firing away. Rockets also were being hurled at the beach defences, and further away destroyers were pumping shells into the enemy.

“As we neared the shore we saw on the left a village with a church spire, then opposite us another one with its church spire rather holed, then a belt of trees, some flat country and a third township away on our right.

“The villages were St Aubin on the left, Bernières-sur-Mer opposite and Courseulles on the right.

“My Landing Craft Assault touched down directly opposite that spot which I thought was pretty good work on the part of the Navy. The bombardment had started a few fires which were burning brightly with thick smoke rising above each.

“Where I landed these consisted of a line of sleepers stuck in the sand with teller mines on top, and then behind them rows of iron girders bolted together and splayed out so that they stood up on end and presented jagged ends.

“More than that, they fused shells to many of the girder ends so that a craft only had to touch one and it would explode, blowing a hole in the boat.

“Ours stopped with a jerk. I thought we had just beached until I found water rising. Then I realised one of these girders must have pierced the side of the boat.

“Fortunately there was no shell or else several men would have been killed or wounded.

“By the time the Canadians had got out, the water was up to our knees and we couldn’t waste time hitching packs on to our backs. I grabbed hold of mine, felt for my rifle under the water and picked up two shovels lying in the front.

“Things seemed very quiet on the beach. An occasional bullet from some sniper would crack by but that was all.

“All along under the sea wall was a terrific crush of Canadians, and as I walked up the beach there were numbers of them lying on the sand, one or two attempting to crawl slowly up to the top.

“They had been caught by the crossfire from two pillboxes. The fact that those chaps might be dead or dying didn’t seem to register somehow.

“I saw them and knew they had been hit but I was surprised with the detachment. The stretcher bearers were busy bringing the wounded to the Beach Dressing Station where they were tended, wrapped in blankets and given cigarettes, and laid out to await evacuation.

“As the sea came up it began to lap around one or two of the still forms. I asked the stretcher bearers if they were going to be brought in, but no, nothing more could be done for them. After a while the crowd disappeared as the beach exit was cleared of the enemy and things began to sort themselves out.”

Read Denis’s story in full and those of other D-Day heroes as well as other features and videos on the D-Day section of our website at dorsetecho.co.uk/dday

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