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Couple assist Second World War veterans during Normandy visit

The veterans and the team of people who assisted them during their visit to Normandy in northern France, including Bruce and Pat Ennion.
The veterans and the team of people who assisted them during their visit to Normandy in northern France, including Bruce and Pat Ennion.

A Morpeth couple have returned from northern France after helping a group of Second World War veterans during a poignant visit.

For the second year running, Bruce and Pat Ennion were privileged to join a small team of people – including military medical personnel and doctors – to assist a group of 32 as they went back to the Normandy battle fields, beaches and villages in and around Caen to mark the success of the D-Day Landings on June 6, 1944, and subsequent operation.

They were invited by D-Day Revisited, a charity trust under the leadership of John Phipps that for the last 10 years has provided the opportunity for veterans to attend many of the local remembrance services and visit some Second World War key sites where they personally took part in the invasion and fighting.

Also in the group was the sole surviving member of a female medical team, aged 97, who went ashore with the troops to provide essential support with hospital facilities and medical attention.

There was a visit to the Utah Beach Museum to be formally received and welcomed by the local Mayor and museum director and a private visit to the site of the long-awaited British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach included a review of progress from the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell and architect Liam O’Connor.

There was an especially poignant service at Pegasus Bridge as the wife of a veteran who recently died distributed his ashes from a Second World War high speed launch at the river crossing he fought to protect during the conflict.

On June 6, there was a formal service at the Bayeux Cathedral, attended by a number of ministers and local dignitaries, followed by an official service of commemoration at the Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery that contains more than 4,000 burials.

This year, a particular tribute was made to those involved in the efforts of Operation Jedburgh carried out by the British Special Operations Executive, who parachuted many small groups of men and women, known as Jedburgh Teams, into occupied France to direct and support the French resistance.

Mr Ennion said: “The whole occasion was one of heart wrenching sentimentality, with huge peaks and troughs of emotional feelings. Attendance at such an event certainly puts a different perspective on life and focuses the mind.

“These important visits provide the veterans with the opportunity to remember and relate circumstances and events and more importantly to pay homage to their many pals and comrades who tragically did not return, but who also took such an active part in the very successful invasion.”