The Royal British Legion has won the 2019 ‘Judges’ Special Award’ at the Millies.
On Tuesday 6 June 1944, nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel in the biggest amphibious invasion in history. It began the liberation of France, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, and signalled the beginning of the end of World War Two in Europe.
To mark the 75th anniversary of D Day, 250 veterans gathered on the cruise ship MV Boudicca in June 2019, as part of a week of events organised by the Royal British Legion.
It visited UK destinations – allowing veterans to meet serving Royal Marines in Poole, and take part in a national commemorative event in Portsmouth. As it departed for Normandy, to take the veterans back to the place they had been 75 years before, those on board were given a salute by an honour guard which included then-Prime Minister, Theresa May. “We wanted to be sure that we could honour the sacrifice, the commitment, the service of that generation who did so much for this country,” the Legion’s Director-General, Charles Byrne, said.
Assistant Director of Engagement, Bob Gamble felt there would be many people who were out there, but no longer tied to a regimental association. “We ended up with about 258 people, veterans plus their carers – virtually all had never been back to Normandy since D-Day,” he said. Among the guests was 93-year-old Albert Price, who drove a tank onto Gold Beach on D-Day, and his wife Betty.
Albert was taken aback at the reception they were given.
“There were so many people in attendance waiting to help that we were just made welcome it was unbelievable,” he said, which Betty described as “something out of this world”.
Albert said getting together with fellow D-Day veterans meant “a lot of the memories come flooding back”.
For Bob Gamble, the aspect of company and social interaction for those involved in commemorations was crucially important. “A lot of those veterans live alone, so what they were getting now was the kind of camaraderie and comradeship they hadn’t had since they were in the services, 75 years before,” he said.
During his return to Normandy, Albert laid a cross on Gold Beach to remember his fallen comrades. “I knew Albert was more touched than what he let known to me, I could tell the way he stood and was tense,” his wife Betty said. Albert added: “The trip itself began to bring that to the fore, to make me realise that perhaps what we did was a little bit special.”