D-Day remembered

Posted on 06/06/2014 by

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6 June 1944. As we remember the day that marked the beginning of the end of Nazi tyranny, both British and Scottish Governments commemorate D-Day:

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Prime Minister David Cameron wrote the following article for French newspaper Ouest-France to mark the D-Day 70th Anniversary commemorations:

“As we gather on the beaches of Normandy to remember the extraordinary sacrifices made for peace, there has never been a more important time to underline our belief in collective defence.

Through the searing experiences of moments like D-Day, we learnt how much more we could achieve by working together as allies than by fighting alone. The NATO Alliance was born out of this commitment to increase our collective security and to ensure that the common cause we found through shared hardship would prevent conflict on this scale threatening our world again.

Just as British and French soldiers fought for victory against a common enemy on the beaches of Normandy, today France and the UK stand shoulder to shoulder against the threats of the modern world. We remain united against international terrorism and extremism – and in recent times our armed forces have served together in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and elsewhere around the world.

But it is not just our military ties that have deepened over these past 70 years. We have also worked together to ramp up diplomatic pressure in advancing our shared values, most recently in the push for humanitarian assistance in Syria and in our support for the Ukrainian government. Alongside NATO, the European Union has also helped us to develop a peaceful continent which is more connected than we could ever have imagined and which has opened up unprecedented opportunities for trade and growth.

So as we look forward to the future I believe we should take strength from the shared hardship of our experience during World War II. It has forged our unique relationship and created a shared determination to work together for a safer, more prosperous future for us all. That future is why so many of our service men gave their lives – and protecting the peace they fought for is the greatest way we can honour those who fell.”

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First Minister Alex Salmond attended the D-Day memorial in Normandy and paid tribute to those who were part of the Allied invasion of Europe during a day of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

The First Minister joined the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, world leaders and 400 veterans from the Commonwealth nations at a service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral.

He then attended a Service of Remembrance at the British military cemetery in Bayeux, the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France, containing 4,144 Commonwealth graves.

Following the service led by the Queen, the First Minister met with Scots veterans who had played such an important part in this key turning point of the Second World War.

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Mr Salmond said: “It is a tremendously moving experience to be here today standing alongside the bravest of men to whom we owe an incredible debt. It is important that we take time to recognise the sacrifices made here in Normandy 70 years ago by a generation who gave so much.

“It has been an honour to meet with some of the Scottish servicemen whose courage amid the most harrowing conditions imaginable remains an inspiration to this day. D-Day was a decisive moment in a war to maintain and preserve the democratic freedoms we are privileged to enjoy today, and the sacrifices paid by men from many nations made that possible.”

The First Minister later took part in the main international commemoration event on Sword Beach where 28,000 British soldiers landed on D-Day.

And as a local tribute to all those involved in the D-Day landings, Edinburgh Castle was lit up purple in the evening.

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Scotland Office ministers have also been remembering those who paid the ultimate price at D-Day – as well as those who returned and those who are currently serving in the UK armed forces.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael visited Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh and earlier in the week he met serving troops on training exercises at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik.

Mr Carmichael said: “Today marks 70 years since the D-Day landings. In villages, towns, cities and communities across Scotland, memorials mark the soldiers who gave up their lives as part of the Allied invasion of occupied France.

“We will never forget the bravery, valour and sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women from Scotland, and right across the UK, made on the beaches of Normandy and over the course of the Second World War. Without them we would not live in the world we do now.”

Scottish veterans and their families were also the focus of a special reception in Edinburgh Castle’s Grand Hall this week ahead of the 70th anniversary.

The event was co-hosted by the Scotland Office and the General Officer Commanding Scotland Major General Nick Eeles. Among the guests were Scottish World War Two veterans and their families, the wider defence and veterans community and political representatives.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell, who sits on the Armed Forces (Covenant) Cabinet Committee, said: “This anniversary is a very historic occasion for the whole of the UK and the event complemented the extensive ones taking place in Normandy. D-Day still captures the country’s imagination 70 years on and this was a valuable opportunity to show our gratitude to Scottish veterans and their families for their remarkable courage and sacrifice.”

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Yesterday (Thursday 5 June), the Scottish Government announced that the sacrifice of Scottish soldiers on the Normandy beaches is to be remembered in previously unseen documents.

‘D-Day + 70’ reveals contemporary documents for the first time in order to tell the stories of some of the Scottish troops who fought and fell as part of the spearhead of the greatest amphibious assault ever mounted.

One of the first British soldiers to land on Sword beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944, was Captain George McLennan, a young engineer officer from a Scottish military family, whose heroic conduct won him a posthumous Military Cross. Leading three specialist tanks of 77th Assault Squadron, which were designed to overcome the beach defences, he was killed while gallantly attacking German defenders who were pinning down British commandos.

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The display highlights the important and dangerous task carried out by specialist soldiers fighting to gain a hold on French soil. Many of the 2,500 British and Canadian casualties on 6 June were sappers, commandos, tank crews, glider troops, paratroopers, signallers and gunners. The infantry also played a vital role, and were followed onto the beaches by drivers of support vehicles of all kinds.

Among the documents never shown before is the unpublished diary of Angus McMillan, who recorded his experiences of ‘devastation and hellish destruction’ as part of an artillery unit that landed after D-Day. The part played by many ordinary men are illustrated by the wills made by Captain McLennan and others, either at home in Scotland or in their English bases as they prepared to embark for France.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government, said: “Telling some of the stories of the young soldiers who took part in the D-Day invasion is a very fitting reminder of the extraordinary events that took place 70 years ago, and the remarkable bravery shown by ordinary Scots who sacrificed their lives.”

Tim Ellis, Registrar General and Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said: “The National Records of Scotland are pleased to be able to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day by revealing documents that highlight the courageous contribution made by Scottish soldiers as part of the Allied invasion of occupied France.”

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