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Normandy veterans plant the seeds for a day to remember

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Sheffield war veterans scattered sand from the beaches of Normandy as they planted a tree in memory of their fallen comrades – with further commemorations planned next year.

The number of members of Sheffield Normandy Veteran Association has dwindled over the decades but, despite their age, the group hopes to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings next year in style.

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Normandy veterans scatter sand from the beaches of Normandy around the tree. Picture: Chris Etchells

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Normandy veterans scatter sand from the beaches of Normandy around the tree. Picture: Chris Etchells

Members gathered in Weston Park as an Oak tree was planted in memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice but it was just the start of preparations for a day to remember in more ways than one in 2019.

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Gordon Drabble, association president and acting chairman, said: “The tree is magnificent. It’s a well-established Oak and by the time it grows it will offer shade right over the path in Weston Park.

“But the big ceremony is going to be in June, with Cadet forces, the Sea cadets, veterans and the public – there will be quite a few people there.

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. The medals of veteran Cyril Elliott. Picture: Chris Etchells

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. The medals of veteran Cyril Elliott. Picture: Chris Etchells

“Our secretary is also trying to get a flyover on the day, which would be quite special.”

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The veterans – Gordon Drabble, Les Giles, Cyril Elliott, Eric Fowler, and Douglas Austin – gathered in the park for a short service as the tree was planted.

There was also a playing of the Last Post.

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Picture: Chris Etchells

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Picture: Chris Etchells

As part of next year's commemorations, there will also be a plaque and bench installed near the tree.

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Mr Drabble said: “The council have been marvellos – they have funded the tree, the bench and plaque. The tree is also going to be maintained by them.

“The exact date for the event is yet to be confirmed because we usually go to Normandy every year but it's going to be quite a do.”

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Veteran Cyril Elliott. Picture: Chris Etchells

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Veteran Cyril Elliott. Picture: Chris Etchells

The Normandy Landings took place on Tuesday, June 6 1944 and was largest seaborne invasion in history.

The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Mr Drabble said: “I don’t think anyone who was part of it can forget what it was like. It’s something that sticks in your mind over the years.

“We had to succeed because it would have put the war back quite a bit and everyone went to quite a bit of trouble to make sure that the mission did succeed.”

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Normandy veterans Gordon Drabble, Les Giles, Cyril Elliott, Eric Fowler, and Douglas Austin. Picture: Chris Etchells

Normandy Veterans in Sheffield plant a tree in Weston Park as a D-Day memorial. Normandy veterans Gordon Drabble, Les Giles, Cyril Elliott, Eric Fowler, and Douglas Austin. Picture: Chris Etchells