77th D-Day anniversary: Ceremony returns after pandemic hiatus

WGC Royal British Legion

D-Day commemoration at the Howardsgate War Memorial - Credit: WGC Royal British Legion

Having missed last year's D-Day commemoration due to lockdown, the Welwyn Garden City Branch of the Royal British Legion assembled at the Howardsgate War Memorial again on Sunday.

Although there are no D-Day veterans left as members of the branch, the short commemoration service was held to honour the memory of the 77th Anniversary of the storming of the five Normandy beaches.

On June 6 1944, 150,000 British, Canadian and US military personnel crossed a very rough English Channel in 7,000 boats before fighting their way ashore against the Nazi Germany forces.

At the memorial service thoughts also turned to just after midnight on that day when 180 British airborne troops were released in six gliders to capture the bridges that crossed the Orne River and Caen Canal.

The latter bridge was renamed three weeks later as 'Pegasus Bridge' in tribute to the British troops.

The two minutes silence enabled those present to remember Allied casualties on what has become known as 'The Longest Day', estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.

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Branch members were joined by family and friends to recognise the tremendous sacrifices made on D-Day's Normandy beaches.

Cllr Barbara Fitzsimon, deputy mayor, laid a wreath on behalf of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, and Doug Caswell, chair of the Welwyn Garden City branch of the Royal British Legion, laid a wreath on behalf of local Legion members. The standard bearer was Tony Cousins.

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Last month, the Welwyn Garden City branch of the Royal British Legion revealed it was under threat of closure as soon there may not be enough active members to sustain the branch.

If membership continues to fall the branch would eventually have to retire the standard - this would mean an end to official branch participation in the civic gatherings such as the D-Day commemoration.

Active local branch voluntary members and helpers enable the Welwyn Garden City community to generously raise around £50,000 each year during the annual Poppy Appeal for the national work of the Royal British Legion.

To find out more about branch you can visit their Facebook page by searching: "The Royal British Legion Welwyn Garden City Branch".

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