On 3 June, musicians from the Band of the RAF Regiment travelled to Normandy to support the D-Day Anniversary commemorations. It was a huge honour for the Band as this year’s ceremony marked 75 years since the D-Day landings; to this date, the largest amphibious assault in history, combining a naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation ‘OVERLORD’, the allied landings on the Normandy beaches were the beginning of a long-lasting and costly campaign to liberate northwest Europe from Nazi occupation.
The Band provided musical support in Colleville-sur-Mer on 5 June for a memorial service beside the General Montgomery Statue. This was attended by multiple World War Two veterans who had the chance to lay a wreath and pay their respects. Also in attendance were General Lord Dannatt, and The Right Honourable David Montgomery, the grandson of Field Marshal Montgomery. During the service, Senior Aircraftman Jeremy Bristow sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
The following morning, the Band performed in a remembrance service at Bayeux Cathedral, attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, The Right Honourable Theresa May and President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, as well as other heads of states from the allied nations and D-Day veterans. It was a poignant tribute to the heroes to whom we owe so much. Making the event evermore touching, the Prince of Wales remarked that this day was
Probably the last chance to pay everlasting respect to the remarkable D-Day veterans.
It was a particularly emotional day for Senior Aircraftman Elliott Milum, whose Grandfather Corporal John Murphy served in The Royal Ulster Rifles as a sniper and was injured during the D-Day Landings.
Later in the afternoon the Band performed their final tribute on the beach front at Arromanches. Here the crowds sang along with the Band to music such as Jerusalem and We’ll Meet Again as well as other classics from the era. The service at Arromanches was drawn to a close by flypasts from both the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows. During the day, the Last Post was sounded by Corporal Ben Murray and Corporal James Lawrence.
One of the veterans in attendance of the service at Arromanches was 93-year-old Harry Billinge. Harry was 18 years of age and part of the Royal Engineer’s when he landed on Gold Beach at 0630 on 6 June 1944 in the first wave of troops. He was in Normandy not only for the commemorations but to see the National Memorial Statue that he had raised over £10,000 towards. He said this was his “swansong”, and he did not think he would return again.