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Their finest hour watched by the world

FINAL MISSION: Veterans Tony Blackman, Bernard Hale and John Summerson with the wreaths taken to Normandy. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG310514-121TW

FINAL MISSION: Veterans Tony Blackman, Bernard Hale and John Summerson with the wreaths taken to Normandy. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG310514-121TW

It will be their finest hour since one of the greatest military operations the world has known.

Local veterans on an emotional final pilgrimage to Normandy to reunite with old friends from the Second World War are just one day away from marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

D-Day veteran Tony Blackman (89) and Desert Rat John Summerson are joining hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world tomorrow – the anniversary of the launch of the campaign that freed Western Europe from German occupation.

Unfortunately, veteran Bernard Hale (89) was not well enough to join them.

But this week their spirits were as strong as ever.

The trip is especially important for Mr Blackman – the only remaining Normandy war veteran on the trip.

Harold Payne, owner of the Anglia Motel in Fleet Hargate, has organised annual pilgrimages for 21 years to lay wreaths representing the flags of all the allied countries at the cemetries where thousands of fallen soldiers lay.

Speaking to the Spalding Guardian from Normandy, Mr Payne said nothing could dim their pride during their special mission.

He said: “There are 500 carnations in each wreath and we are laying them for our boys.

“Everywhere that we go, young people want to stop and talk to the veterans, even journalists from China have spoken to them.”

Mr Payne also said that the veterans are receiving a fitting welcome from the public and are having a “fantastic time remembering fallen friends.”

He said: “We’re doing everyone back home proud. Without the people of Spalding we wouldn’t have been able to raise the money to do this over the years.”

Colin Jackman, chairman of the Spalding branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “Like Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the D-Day landings is very important as it honours the lives of the people who fought for this country.

“Without them and what they did, I don’t think we would be able to be as free as we are today.”

The veterans are visiting Omaha and Utah beaches and laying wreaths at Pegasus Bridge and Bayeaux and Ranville cemeteries.

• A craft fair to raise money for war heroes is being held at the Anglia Motel at Fleet Hargate on Sunday.

As many as 20 artists and makers will be selling quality crafts and gifts, all in aid of local veterans and Help Our Local Heroes. There will also be face painting, as well as hot and cold food and drinks.

The event is being held from 11am to 4pm and entry is free.

 

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