D-Day remembered 80 years on

RIPON Grammar School chemistry teacher and conductor of the school's brass ensemble was honoured to play The Last Post and the Reveille at a gathering at York Station to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

The York branch of the Royal British Legion held a service of commemoration at the Normandy Veterans' Bench on Platform 3. There were readings and prayers to remember those who lost their lives eighty years ago.

Former soldiers, sailors and air crew plus local dignitaries and passengers stopped to mark the moment, 80 years since the largest seaborne invasion in history, and the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe.

They were joined by guest of honour, 98-year-old World War II veteran Joe Thomas, who was awarded the highest French medal, the Legion d'Honneur in 2017.

He served as a stoker in the Royal Navy Combined Ops and was involved in the Marseille landings - an operation in the south of France which acted as a diversion to draw attention away from the Normandy operation. He went on to serve in Operation Shingle at Anzio, which led to the liberation of Rome.

Rev David Hobman, chaplain of the Royal British Legion, thanked Joseph for coming, adding: "For those who walked in the shadow of death 80 years ago on the beaches of Normandy that day, all I can do is ask you all very humbly to pray with me in thanksgiving of their supreme sacrifice."

Sheriff of York, Fiona Fitzpatrick, spoke about the work done by the British Legion, praising the organisation for the help it provides those who struggle with the effects of war - both past and present.

She said: "It's not just the people who died but the people who came back and how they adapted. Our futures are safer than they were back then, and they were all heroes."

Mr Highton, who plays for the York Railway Institute Brass Band, told how the York branch of the Royal British Legion got in touch at short notice, asking if he could play The Last Post and Reveille.

"The service was around the memorial bench dedicated to the veterans who passed through the station en route to Normandy, with the Lord Mayor laying a wreath and members of the British Legion acting as flag bearers in a guard of honour.

"I played The Last Post, timed the minute's silence using the station clock, and then sounded the Reveille. It was a great honour to participate and support the efforts of the Royal British Legion.

"Thanks to headmaster Mr Webb for allowing me the morning off to take part."