On the 76th anniversary of D-Day I took to Twitter to tell a few stories of some of those mentioned in the book and to Recount how the Battalion captured the ‘Hillman’ bunker.
It was well received and there was a lot of interest. As social media erupted with the great repetition of the same surviving veterans and the same old cliche images of D-Day (Capa’s Omaha beach etc.), it was clear that our surviving veterans of infantry battalions are now almost gone.
Not one single image I saw yesterday, featured a Suffolk veteran, and it got me thinking again of just how few of them ever went back independently to Normandy in the years after their service ended.
They all seemed to want to go back with their comrades on the Regimental tours and not on their own. Certainly that ‘family’ spirit entailed into them in training and during their service with the Regiment, definitely lived on years and years after their soldering had ended.
Their first great tour was 1984 when over forty 1/Suffolk veterans and their wives attended the great ceremony and march past Her Majesty, The Queen at Arromanches. Their last great tour was in 2004 when just twelve were in attendance.
On that final tour, I recall that it was a baking hot day in Colleville where this photograph was taken. It was certainly too hot for battledress (which is what I‘m wearing, second left) but if they could do it sixty years before, I was determined to do it also!). I spent most of the day armed with bottled water, ensuring that the old boys got plenty to drink.
Seen here are some of those attending: Eddie Byatt (left), Trevor Lewis (fourth left), John Fenn (fifth left), Bill Jacobs (sixth left), Cecil Deller (second right) and Frank Varley (right). Each one was a great, modest old warrior who I feel privileged to have known.