Town to honour war heroes
By Liz HearnshawVETERANS of the D Day landings look set to be given the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Edmundsbury.It was at 8.30am on June 6, 1944, when thousands of Allied servicemen landed on the beaches of Normandy beaches to face the might of Hitler's troops during one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Second World War.
By Liz Hearnshaw
VETERANS of the D Day landings look set to be given the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Edmundsbury.
It was at 8.30am on June 6, 1944, when thousands of Allied servicemen landed on the beaches of Normandy beaches to face the might of Hitler's troops during one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Second World War.
Those who survived will never forget the horrific scenes they witnessed that day, while their bravery and courage in freeing Europe from the tyranny of Hitler will be remembered for years to come.
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Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the D Day landings - and for many veterans it will their last opportunity to commemorate the event.
It could also be a poignant occasion for Normandy heroes in Bury St Edmunds, as they are likely to be conferred with the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Edmundsbury.
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Tom Sharpley, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association, said: “I am very pleased as it will be our 60th anniversary year and we want to make the most of it as many of us are obviously getting older and do not know how much longer we are going to be around.
“Memories of that day do begin to fade and sometimes you wonder if it really happened, but on June 6, or if a member of the association passes away, it all comes back as vividly as if it was yesterday.
“We all lost friends during the landings, but at the time you just assume you might have become separated from people.
“I did not know what happened to my closest friend and it was only five years ago, when I visited Normandy, that we came across his grave. He was only 19.”
Mr Sharpley, then a corporal with the 41 Royal Marine Commandos, was just three weeks short of his 22nd birthday when his 32-strong company leapt from their small assault vessels on to Normandy beaches to the sound of enemy gunfire.
Now aged 81, the veteran, from Fornham St Martin, has spoken out in support of the East Anglian Daily Times' Remember Our Heroes campaign, which calls for a nationwide day of commemoration next year.
“The world would have been very different today if it wasn't for the bravery of everybody involved in the D-Day landings,” he said.
“They should never be forgotten as those of us involved will never forget the carnage and horror we witnessed. I would like to see nationwide events to mark the 60th anniversary, but as a commemoration, not a celebration.”
Honorary Freedom of St Edmundsbury was last conferred in 2000 to the American Third Air Force, with which the area has strong links due to its proximity with the military bases at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall.
The Suffolk Regiment and RAF Honington have also been awarded the accolade, which allows units to march through the area with colours flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed.
A similar recognition is planned for the Normandy veterans and is likely to be rubber-stamped by councillors next week.
If approved, the honour will be conferred during a special meeting of St Edmundsbury Borough Council in June.