Commemorating D-Day Around the Diocese

Commemorating D-Day Around the Diocese

Across the diocese, churches and communities have come together to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Among the events was a service at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, led by acting Bishop of Southampton Geoff Annas from a balcony overlooking the River Hamble.  A number of troops and landing craft were stationed on the river before setting off for the Normandy landings in June 1944.

It’s so important to hold this service not least because the Royal Southern Yacht Club has made a real effort to make this event child friendly.  The service was put together with great care to explain what we were doing and why we were doing it, so that young people understand that it’s not just history but it’s about how history has affected us now and the lessons that we learn from it.

Bishop Geoff

Ahead of the service, there was a parade through Hamble led by the Spitfire Marching Band and including members of the Royal British Legion, local uniformed organisations, pupils and teachers from The Hamble School and members of St Andrew’s church.

Yacht Club Director Richard Konarek said “We are honoured to be able to join with Hamble Borough Council to play even a small part in paying tribute to this great event.  It is humbling and a great honour to be involved.  This was a real community event.  We had no idea how many people would join the procession and service but there were about 400 people.  We are so pleased to have Bishop Geoff here and I think having a service sends out a message that this is important.  It felt quite emotional and a lot of people have said they have benefitted from being here together and having a service to remember 80 years on.” 

The service included hymns and prayers to remember those who served during D-day and for members of the armed forces today, for reconciliation between the nations and for those who continue to suffer the consequences of war.  Deputy Headteacher Sarah Valleley gave a reading entitled “Light, Love and Peace in the World” reflecting on the darkness of war and the light of peace that emerged following the D Day landings, linking this to how in John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world”.

She said: “I think the service has been a fantastic opportunity to get all aspects of the community together for such an important moment.  I felt my reading was written for the children so that they could be part of it and remember the significance of the event.  It’s important for them to reflect on what the future holds and to think about a hopeful future with peace around the world.”

An 80th anniversary beacon was lit by the Mayor of Eastleigh on a jetty overlooking the river accompanied by a lone piper.  The bravery and sacrifice of those in the D-Day landings was marked by beacon lighting across the UK and on Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah beaches in Normandy.  The moving and poignant service ended with the reading of the International Tribute and a blessing by Bishop Geoff.

 Faith played a big role for soldiers who took part D-day with many talking about how it sustained them through really difficult times. Bishop Geoff added: “I think faith brings people together.  We talk about a community of faith and it’s not just the Christian faith but of course there were people of all faiths who took part in the D-Day landings.  We ask for God’s blessing on our efforts now to try and make peace in the world and to make this a better place. God has created this world, given it to us and it’s our job to look after it in so many different ways.  We’re thinking a lot at the moment about climate change but it’s also about our interpersonal relationships and how we get on with one another, because peace actually starts with us.  It’s not just about events abroad, it’s how we relate to one another and then peace spreads out from that.”

After the service, there was a singalong in the club with songs from the 1940s.

Holyrood Church, Southampton

In Southampton, the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen also led a commemorative service to recognise and honour the sacrifices made during the Second World War. The service was held at Holyrood Church in the city centre, which was destroyed by enemy bombing during the Blitz in November 1940.  It was attended by veterans, and members of the 17 Port & Maritime Regiment.  They later led a parade through the city centre accompanied by the RLC Corps of Drums and Army Band Tidworth and a beacon was lit in Guildhall Square by the Lord Mayor of Southampton.

The Benefice of Tadley with Pamber Heath and Silchester

Due to its links to D-Day and World War II, the benefice of Tadley with Pamber Heath and Silchester wished to commemorate D-Day on a large scale. Tadley played a key role in World War II and in the support of D-Day, while St. Mary’s Church is now situated in what was the middle of the American Airbase during World War II. Indeed, St. Mary’s Church tower is where the water tower was located on the airbase. As such, the team at Tadley are always keen to remembers those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

On Thursday 6 June, Revd Steve McKay led the Basingstoke and Deane Borough commemoration service at Basingstoke War Memorial, alongside representees from all uniformed service organisations, locals MPs and the Mayor. The service featured that evening on the ITV News.  It was wonderful to meet several veterans who had been part of the D-Day landings.

Revd Steve leads Basingstoke in act of remembrance featured on ITV news

In addition to assisting with the D-Day service in Basingstoke, Charles Lewis, Tadley’s Licenced Lay Minister, led the D-Day 80 service of commemoration for the Friends of the New Forest Airfields Association, where he serves as their Honorary Chaplain.   The aim of the Association is to keep alive the memory of the twelve World War II Airfields located in the Forest, which played an important role in D-Day. The service was attended by representatives of the nations who flew from there and included Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Charles Lewis from Tadley with representatives at the D-Day 80 Service

On Saturday 8 June, Revd Steve and the St. Paul’s team led a D-Day themed Fete on The Green in Tadley, with several thousand of the community attending. It was a great community event which showcased local charities and voluntary organisations.

St. Paul’s band performing songs from the1940s at the D-Day Fete on the Green

The following day, St. Mary’s Tadley held a Civic D-Day service of remembrance, where they welcomed the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, representatives from all the uniformed services, including veterans associations, the local Air Cadets Corps, and lots of the local community.

D-Day Commeroation service at St. Mary’s, Tadley

Meanwhile at St. Paul’s, Tadley, Revd Steve led a special family tribute at a D-Day themed Messy Church. The congregation heard what it was like to be a child in Tadley on D-Day 80 years ago, and found it fascinating to hear a firsthand account! Messy Church also included some great activities, including making medals, ‘digging for victory’ (the chocolate earth was delicious!), as well as making airplanes, landing craft and flags. Perhaps the best bit was building an air raid shelter from boxes with Revd Steve – while the kids were playing in the shelter some of the dads couldn’t resist taking up the Lego challenge and created some brilliant models!

D-Day Exhibition at St Luke’s, Burton

Rosemary and John Bedford organised a wonderful exhibition at St Luke’s Church, Burton, which included intricate models and dioramas depicting the D-Day landings and other events of the Second World War.

The church was packed for a wonderful memorial service for the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, visitors including members of the Royal Air Force Association.

Commemoration Service at Lymington Quay

A very moving commemoration took place at Lymington Quay, from where members of the Essex Regiment embarked for the Normandy Beaches 80 years ago. The service was led by Revd Lee Thompson, the vicar of St Thomas’ Church, Lymington. A huge congratulations to all involved in organising and delivering this respectful and thought-provoking event. Those attending were also privileged to be joined by a D-Day veteran.

St Mary’s, Andover

In preparation for the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, St Mary’s, Andover, interviewed three (now) residents in Andover who shared their memories of the day from their childhoods in Andover, Sussex and York. A huge thank you to June Harris, Charles Redford and Joyce Dent for sharing their memories with us.

This video was shown at a service on the anniversary of D-Day, at St Mary’s Church. You can find lovely photos from the event via the Andover Advertiser.

Sway Place Care Home

Revd Jane Mitchell, vicar at St Luke’s Church, Sway, was invited by Sway Place Care Home to support the Royal British Legion, residents of Sway Place, and local parishioners at a D-Day Commemoration. She also closed the proceedings with a prayer and Blessing. Revd Jane said that it was “humbling and a joy to be with the residents and staff at Sway Place Care Home and commemorate D-Day.”

The day included a minute silence to honour the fallen and the legacy of those who changed the course of history, as well as residents sharing wartime memories. Residents, staff and guests enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea with live musical entertainment from the wonderful Singing Sweethearts.

St Edwards Church, Netley

St Edwards Church in Netley held a D-Day Commemoration Dance in the church hall, with the Jazz Quest live band playing music throughout the evening. Attendees were encouraged to dress in their ‘1944 best’ and many local residents rose to the occasion!