Sheffield Normandy veterans meet for annual Christmas meal

Sheffield’s surviving Normandy veterans who fought to liberate Europe during the Second World War gathered to celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 4:07 pm

Members of the Normandy Veterans Sheffield and District met for their annual Christmas meal at the Mercure Sheffield St Paul's Hotel.

Gathering at 12pm, the four veterans who were able to attend the meal were joined by nearly 50 others including the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Tony Downing, and the Lady Mayoress, Val Downing, along with other guests such as representatives from the University of Sheffield.

Before sitting down for the meal all the guests took part in a period of remembrance to honour the fallen soldiers who lost their lives during the Normandy landings – also known as the D-Day landings – which took place on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, as part of the campaign to free the north-west of Europe which was occupied by Nazis during World War Two.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Normandy Veterans Christmas lunch at Mecure Sheffield St Paul's Hotel. Veterans Cyril Elliott and Eric Fowler.

The Normandy prayer is also recited, followed by Churchill's 'We shall fight on the beaches' speech – a eulogy to the British war effort given by Winston Churchill on June 4, 1940.

Graham Askham, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Sheffield and District, said: “We’ve been holding the Christmas lunch for the last five years at St Paul's Hotel. The staff there are always great, we really appreciate the job they did and can’t praise them enough – they were very generous and attentive.

“We had a meal with all the trimmings and also held a presentation so thank some of the people who have been very supportive of the veterans over the last year. It was a nice afternoon and allowed people to socialise.”

The Normandy Veterans Sheffield and District hold regular monthly meetings in which they discuss any upcoming projects they are working on.

Normandy Veterans Christmas lunch at Mecure Sheffield St Paul's Hotel

In the new year, they are planning to help Doncaster D-Day veteran, Frank Baugh, who is an ambassador for the new Normandy memorial in Northern France, as he raises funds for a new education and visitor centre to be built on the same site.

D-Day was a crucial turning point in WW2 and signalled the start of the Allies’ invasion of western Europe.

British naval, air and ground troops, were joined by thousands of Americans and Canadians, to prepare for the invasion officially named ‘Operation Overlord’.

A total of 156,000 men took part, with airborne troops parachuted into Normandy, while 6,000 ships and landing craft delivered troops to five beaches. Sadly around 3,000 Allied troops died with a further 9,000 wounded or missing.

Normandy Veterans Christmas lunch at Mecure Sheffield St Paul's Hotel.

Once the beaches were secure, progress through the staunchly defended town of Normandy was slow but with the Allies outnumbering their enemy they were able to overcome the resistance, eventually paving the way for victory.

The lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress join L-R Eric Fowler, Cyril Elliott, Gordon Drabble, Jack Quinn and Frank Baugh