As the world commemorates wars and conflicts during a weekend of remembrance, World War Two veterans mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.
D-Day is a term used for the day when the Allied forces invaded Normandy, France to attack Nazi German forces.
English soldier Ken Hay, who participated in the Allied invasion of Normandy, recalls being trapped behind German lines and captured during a night patrol near “Hill 112.”
“Thirty of us went out, 16 including my brother got back, five of us got captured and nine got killed,” Hay said.
He is now an active ambassador for the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach.
Preparations are underway for next year’s 80th anniversary, with an elegant rectangular colonnade in Ver-sur-Mer honouring 22,440 servicemen and two servicewomen from over 30 nationalities who died under British command between June 6 and August 31, 1944.
The 30-million-pound memorial, financed by fines on banks and private donations, features 160 stone columns and a ceremonial wall.
Hay, now 98, is involved in fundraising for an educational pavilion scheduled for completion by the 80th anniversary, likely attended by Britain’s King Charles III and French President Emmanuel Macron. With the average age of veterans at 98, it will be a significant opportunity to gather those who played a crucial role in pushing back the Western front.
“The fact that names are presented chronologically means you understand how the battle unfolded: the days that are particularly fierce,” said operations manager Sacha Marsac.
“When a whole unit is lost on the same day, their names are all next to each other.”
The memorial is uniquely laid out by the date of death, offering a chronological understanding of the fierce battles. Neat rows of names, ranks, and ages tell personal stories, from four 16-year-olds who likely exaggerated their age to soldiers barely in their 20s.
Posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, Corporal Sidney Bates is honoured with a special logo.
Veterans like Hay, who joined at 17 and faced captivity and hardship, emphasize the sacrifices of those who fell in battle.
“I joined at the age of 17 in 1943, but they wouldn’t call me [to serve] until I was 17-and-a-half; they said I was too young to die,” Hay said in a recent interview.
As the 80th anniversary approaches, the memorial stands as a testament to the courage and resilience of those who played a pivotal role in the liberation of France from the Nazi German occupation.