Normandy heroes honoured in Sheffield 75 years after end of bloody campaign

Normandy heroes who helped to liberate Europe were todaynote-0 honoured in Sheffield 75 years after the bloody campaign drew to a close.

Sunday, 11th August 2019, 6:13 pm
Updated Sunday, 11th August 2019, 9:03 pm

Veterans of the D-Day landings and ensuing battles were among those who gathered in Weston Park for what is known as a Sunset Ceremony.

The moving occasion was the first time they have attended a service in the park since a Normandy memorial tree and bench were unveiled near the tennis courts there earlier this year.

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Veterans at a Sunset Ceremony in Sheffield's Weston Park marking 75 years since the end of the Normandy campaign to liberate Europe

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Added poignancy was lent by the lowering of a faded Royal Navy ensign which flew from a D-Day landing craft and bears the name of a crew member, Able Seaman Bayliss, shot dead before reaching the beach.

Events took place across the country, including a flypast in Sheffield’s Norfolk Heritage Park, and across the Channel in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, officially known as Operation Overlord, earlier this year.

But Sheffield Sea Cadets, who organised Sunday’s ceremony, wanted to remind people that was only the start of the Normandy Campaign, known as the beginning of the end of the Second World War, which did not officially end until August 20, 1944 and during which at least 22,000 Allied troops are estimated to have died.

Chris Camps, executive officer at Sheffield Sea Cadets, said: “People forget that the Normandy campaign lasted for nearly three months and we thought it would be nice to commemorate the end of the campaign, not just the landings.

A Royal Navy ensign which flew from a D-Day landing craft and bears the name of a crew member shot dead during the invasion is lowered during a Sunset Ceremony marking 75 years since the end of the Normandy campaign to liberate Europe

“Having veterans from that campaign here today makes it extra special, and we’d like to say a big thank you to them for all they did. We’re planning to make this an annual event to give thanks to all those who served in the campaign and helped to liberate Europe.”

Special guests on the day included the Queen’s Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, Andrew Coombe, and Sheffield's lord mayor, Tony Downing, but the true VIPs were the three Normandy veterans who defied their advancing years to be there.

Jack Quinn, aged 95 and originally from Sheffield but now living in Mablethorpe, was among the first Allied troops to reach the Normandy beaches as coxon of a boat sent to clear the waters of obstacles ready for troops to land on D-Day.

He said: “It’s nice to see so many people here, because it shows the sacrifices that were made haven’t been forgotten, and it’s quite an emotional day.”

A Sunset Ceremony in Sheffield's Weston Park marking 75 years since the end of the Normandy campaign to liberate Europe

The ceremony began with a parade by the young cadets before a bell was rung and the D-Day ensign was lowered from the flagpole.

Father Grant Naylor, chaplain of Sheffield Sea Cadets, then led the service, in which he thanked those who had answered the call to fight for freedom so many years ago.

“We remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who fought in Operation Overlord and the Normandy campaign, those who served on the beaches and won our freedom,” he said.

“The campaign wasn’t just D-Day, it was week after week of hard toil, warfare, sweat and blood.

A Sunset Ceremony in Sheffield's Weston Park marking 75 years since the end of the Normandy campaign to liberate Europe

“The war and that campaign weren’t won by armies, aircraft or landing craft but by individuals who themselves took up weapons and fought against evil. On this day we salute them and give thanks for their actions.”

Pat Davey, who chairs the Sheffield and District Joint Council for Ex-Service Associations, said: “It’s important we never forget what they did, these lads in their teens and early 20s who had the troubles of the world on their shoulders and no idea what to expect when they landed.”

Sheffield Sea Cadets at a Sunset Ceremony in Sheffield's Weston Park marking 75 years since the end of the Normandy campaign to liberate Europe