Last week saw events in Portsmouth and Normandy commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On 6th June 1944 the start of Operation Overlord saw Allied forces led by British, American and Canadian troops commence the liberation of north-west Europe from Nazi Germany’s occupation.
It is vital that we honour the sacrifices of the Allied nations, and it is right that these heroes are remembered by today’s leaders coming together. However, we must also remember occasions where there is a more local aspect to remembrance.
Crawley had a role to play in the operation, with hundreds of tanks stored along Crawley Avenue in the months before the invasion, and several army units were based locally as well. Indeed, the commander of the Second Army, Lt-General Miles Christopher Dempsey, was from Goffs Park Road.
I was struck by an interview during the commemorations which took place with Eric Strange, who is from Crawley. Eric is now 95 years of age, and served our nation as a Sub Lieutenant in the Navy, sailing from Portsmouth on D-Day.
Listening to Eric’s account of D-Day was a poignant and timely reminder of how fortunate we are to be able to listen to these eyewitness accounts.
Earlier this year saw a flypast in memory of 10 US airmen who crashed in Sheffield in 1944. Many people will have seen coverage of the work of Tony Foulds to ensure they are never forgotten, and it was a chance meeting Tony had with BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker which helped ensure a flypast took place to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash.
Dan, who comes from Crawley, was so moved by Tony’s commitment to remembering those who died, that he helped ensure the organisation of the flypast in the Yorkshire skies in February, which drew a crowd of thousands of people.
While it may not be on the same scale as Dan, we can all play a part in keeping alive the courage of the heroes of the Second World War.
Henry Smith MP