Normandy veterans remember their comrades on D-Day anniversary

Veterans marked D-Day at the Rose Garden in the Abbey Gardens.
Veterans marked D-Day at the Rose Garden in the Abbey Gardens.
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It was a simple act of remembrance for an ever diminishing band of veterans who took part in the invasion of Normandy.

The four veterans, all aged over 90, gathered in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens this morning with their wives and the widows of late comrades.

Veterans marked D-Day at the Rose Garden in the Abbey Gardens.''Pictured: Bill Rice, James Palfrey, Less Cooke and Patrick Adams, seated

Veterans marked D-Day at the Rose Garden in the Abbey Gardens.''Pictured: Bill Rice, James Palfrey, Less Cooke and Patrick Adams, seated

They stood smartly around James Palfrey, formerly of the Suffolk Yeomanry’s 55 Anti-Tank Regiment, as he read the Normandy Prayer, then they bowed their heads for two minutes silence.

Then Mr Palfrey read the Ode of Remembrance and as the final words, ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning,We will remember them’, faded, Les Cooke, wearing his new Arctic Medal, laid a wreath.

Mr Cooke and fellow navy veteran Bill Rice, were both there on D-Day, June 6 1944.

Mr Cooke, from Icklingham, served on the cruiser HMS Bellona, which shelled shore targets and provided anti-aircraft cover for the invasion beaches at Arromanches.

“We were there about 10 days, then we went to north Russia,” he said. He only received the Arctic Medal for the Russian Convoys three weeks ago.

Mr Rice, from Bury St Edmunds, is still waiting for his Arctic Medal but, like the others, has a chest full of other medals. Serving on landing craft, he had taken part in other invasions, including Sicily, but on D-Day sailed from Newhaven to Juno beach to land 200 Canadian soldiers.

“It was quite quiet when we landed,” he said. “We were in the first assault — they didn’t know we were coming.”

Mr Palfrey, from Bury, had his arrival on Gold beach delayed by a radio controlled bomb which dropped deep into his troop ship but failed to go off.

“The Royal Engineers on board took out what they thought was the fuse and it was winched up and dropped over the side,” he said. “The whole ship cheered!”

They arrived to join the 49th Infantry Division in Normandy five days after D-Day.

Patrick Adams from Risby was with the 51st Highland Division and spent D-Day in Dover but was finally transported over seven days later, by which time the beachead was secure but fighting still raged in the Normandy countryside.

He said there is no formal Normandy Veterans group in Bury to organise the remembrance event.

“The day comes round and you turn up and we remember people who have passed away,” he said.