Monday, 6 June 2011

On the 50th anniversary ...

On Memorial Day 1994 I was fortunate enough to be part of a group from Beaminster in Dorset to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day landings at the town of St. James in Normandy. Beaminster and St. James were "twinned", and as a Team Vicar in that parish I was asked to be the church's representative at the event.

The main Act of Remembrance took place at the large American War Cemetery just outside St. James, and being the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the celebrations were somewhat more elaborate than usual.

One of the most telling moments was seeing a local schoolchild standing by each war grave, and who then planted small national flags in front of each stone, both the American Stars and Stripes and the French Tricoleur. Seventeen years on, all those children will now be older than many of those whom they were remembering that day.

I recall it was a blazing hot day, and I sought shelter within the Memorial chapel, and from its tower I was able to get a grandstand view across the cemetery to St. James and the land beyond which had been a battleground those few short years before.

It was good to be part of this, and on this trip we not only visited some of the D-Day landing beaches and the Pegasus bridge, but also a German War cemetery which was far more sombre in mood, and brought into sharp relief the differences between the memorials of the victor and the defeated.

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