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D-Day

This edition of my Mayor’s blog is a special one. It’s written to commemorate both the 80th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history and to remember those who took part in that “longest day.”

There are very few people still alive today who actually took part in D-Day. The passage of time has caught up with almost all who lived through those first 24 hours on the beaches of Normandy. The memory of what they did, however, lives on with their families and those who knew them.

But we don’t remember them or their actions in order to glorify war; there is nothing glorious about the wholesale slaughter that war brings. We remember them because of their role in helping bring an end to a war that had ravaged whole swathes of the globe in the mid-20th century.

Most of us have heard about “Operation Overlord,”  the sea-borne assault on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944, but today I want to share my personal memories of a real-life hero and polymath who took part in something else, Operation Tonga.”.

Operation Tonga also took place on D-Day, but not during daylight. Operation Tonga took place in the hours just after midnight, hours before the first assault on the beaches, and it arrived in occupied France silently and (in theory) unseen from the air.

My family’s, and by extension my, association with just one element of Operation Tonga is included here as a separate file. This is because it contains pictures and photographs that my normal blog can’t display.

If, after reading it, you’re interested in finding out more about the airborne assaults that took place before the main landings began on D-Day, just search for Operation Tonga on the internet. Or get in touch with me; I’ll happily share my memories of a marvellous man over a pint or two on a sunny summer evening here in Trowbridge.

It really is a fascinating story.

Click here to read it! 

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I also want to share with you the memories of another Trowbridge resident who recently told me the story of her father’s D-Day. Her name is Vivien Holloway, and she is herself a veteran, having served as a nurse in the Royal Navy. I’ve got to thank Vivien for sharing her father’s story, and for then giving me permission to share it with you.

Vivien’s late father was Arthur William Slade. He was a member of the 47 Royal Marine Commando, and he came ashore in the second wave to land on Gold Beach just after dawn on June 6, 1944.

Arthur was a Trowbridge lad born and bred who went to Trowbridge Boys High School (now John of Gaunt School). Vivien told me that he joined up just before his 18th birthday and was soon afterwards sent to a Marine Commando training establishment in the south-west of Scotland. Less than two years later, he was to find himself in a landing craft approaching the shoreline of occupied France.

Arthur’s arrival as part of the second wave to assault Gold Beach that Tuesday morning took place only five minutes after the first wave had landed. He was just nineteen years old when he waded ashore that day, and, as his daughter says, we cannot start to imagine the horrors and sheer carnage that he must have seen and experienced. After coming ashore and establishing a bridgehead, his unit was tasked with marching twelve miles west with the objective of capturing the small harbour of Port-en-Bessin (which was to become the main landing point for fuel for the three weeks before Cherbourg was liberated on 20th June). They succeeded, but at a terrible cost in lives.

In the weeks and months after D-Day, Arthur’s unit moved westward through Holland and into Germany before finally being disbanded at the end of the war. However, as Vivien herself says, 47 Commando remains an illustrious name in the history of the Royal Marines and her family.

Arthur William Slade, late of 47 Commando, Royal Marines, was a true local hero.

 

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There must be many more Trowbridge residents with their own familial connections to D-Day. Whatever the relationship, that personal connection to that date somehow makes history that bit more real.

D-Day, Tuesday 6th June 1944 is a day that we must remember. We must remember all those who took part in the liberation of Europe from the evils of Nazi fascism, because it is only by remembering the price paid by our grandparents’ generation that we stand any chance of avoiding the same price being paid in the future by our own grandchildren.

So please join me and our Town Cryer Trevor Heeks, as we gather together at the Civic Centre in the Town Park at 19:30 on the evening of Thursday 6th June 2024 to remember D-Day, Tuesday 6th June 1944.

and pray that the world never has to see what it’s like again.

 

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