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Diss comes together to support the 80th Anniversary of Operation Overlord (D-Day)

19 June 2024

A great big thank you to the people of Diss and the surrounding area for coming in their hundreds to support the D-Day 80 Beacon Lighting Ceremony on 6th June 2024.

The special commemoration of 80 years since D-Day in 1944, the largest naval, air and land operation in history, to honour the sacrifice and service of men and women started at 8pm by the newly extended beacon in Diss Park.

Proceedings started with a parade of over 60 young people from our local Cadet Forces (Army & Air) and Scouts Group (1st Diss) lead by Standard bearers, Mike Garnham of the Diss & District (D&D) Royal British Legion branch (& one of two current Honoured Citizens of Diss), Rodney Furness of the D&D Royal Air Force Association, and an Army Cadet representative carrying the Union flag, accompanied by Salvation Army Band music. They marched past saluting eyes right to our distinguished guests namely Deputy Lieutenant, Philippa Taylor, representing The King, accompanied by Group Captain of the Royal Air Force Association and councillor Kieran Murphy, the Town Mayor before taking up positions facing the Beacon opposite our VIP guests.

Compere, Iain Sturgeon, Diss Salvation Army Bandmaster, welcomed everyone before leading in the D-Day commemoration. Basil Abbott, Diss Museum Manager and Reverend John Cruse, Vicar – Diss Team Ministry aptly read out speeches from Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower before some personal accounts of the D-Day from Robert Rogers, Branch Secretary of the Royal British Legion (RBL) about his father, John Arthur Rogers’ involvement in Operation Overlord and from Fanny Grey, Chair of U3A who spoke about her mum, Rita Mary Harvey.

Group Captain of the RAFA, Andy Knowles talked us through the RAF’s role in D-Day which concluded with Epitaph Part I read by Norfolk and District Councillor Keith Kiddie, the Last Post played by Iain Sturgeon, Two Minute Silence and Part 2 of the Epitaph.

Two Year 10 Diss High School students, George and Zerayah, confidently read out the Poem for Schools before the Reveille involving Standards represented by the Army and Air Cadets, RBL, RAFA and 1stDiss Scouts. Colonel Herve Cachelin, Corps Officer of the Diss Salvation Army lead the congregation in a prayer concluding with hymn, ‘O God, our help in ages past’ prior to closing remarks from Iain concluding the first part of this poignant event.

Part II of the ceremony centred around the newly extended beacon. Cllr Kiddie explained the background to the Diss Beacon of Hope, which was first unveiled on 21stJune 2021 and lit in a ceremony to acknowledge the impact of Covid-19 on our community, nation and worldwide.

The second phase of the Beacon project provides a tranquil seating area for reflection overlooking the Mere with a series of panels around a plinth depicting historic events including the late Queen Elizabeth II’s life and the King’s Coronation with additional inscriptions around the beacon’s base and on the seat ends.

Deputy Lieutenant for Norfolk, Philippa Taylor, thanked Diss Town Council and the organising committee for the invitation before unveiling the new beacon. Four young representatives of the Army & Air Cadets (Cadet De Poo & Sergeant Aubrey) together with Zerayah (Diss High School) and Reuben (Scouts) then carefully lowered a time capsule containing photos, newspaper articles and readings from recent events, condolences messages for our late Queen, information on the beacon walking and cycling trails and much more, which we hope will capture these important moments in history for future generations.

Just after 9pm, Mary Cotton of RBL and second Honoured Citizen for Diss accompanied by Andy Rackham also of RBL and one of the main contractors for the project, prepared to light the beacon alongside many other communities in the UK, whilst Town Mayor, cllr Kieran Murphy read out the International Tribute – commemorating D-Day and giving thanks for eighty years of peace and freedom. The ceremony ended with the National Anthem.

New Vice Chair of D&D RBL, Andy Davidson, said, “It was an honour and a privilege to be able to set off the parade of young people last night, at the Diss D Day remembered event on behalf of The Royal British Legion. Thank you to everyone who participated especially Diss Army Cadet Force, Air Training Corps and scouts, members of the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Association and the wonderful Salvation Army Band. Well done Diss Town Council. It was a fantastic event and pitched perfectly for our community. From a (non-DDay) veteran thank you all.”

Headteacher, Sam Stopps, said, “Well done to Diss Town Council for organising such a lovely event to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day. It was great to be part of this, and well done to our students.”

The Beacon project was made possible by the generosity of a number of local organisations and individuals who have been credited on one of the seat ends. In particular, we would like to thank the main contractors, Keith and Andrew Rackham for their commitment to making this project a reality and for going above and beyond.

Thanks also go to Rosedale Funeral Home who kindly sponsored the commemoration programme.

This event was organised by Diss Town Council alongside the Royal British Legion, Royal Air Force Association, Salvation Army, Army and Air Cadets & Diss Churches Together.

‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’

Diss comes together to support the 80th Anniversary of Operation Overlord (D-Day)
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