Heroes of D-Day Landings saluted
PUBLISHED: 17:40 20 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 23 August 2010
RELATIVES of Royal Marine heroes who took part in the D-Day Landings attended a poignant memorial service. Four sons and one daughter of five members of 48 Commando took part in the annual event at Christ Church, in Echo Square, Gravesend, on Sunday. Th
RELATIVES of Royal Marine heroes who took part in the D-Day Landings attended a poignant memorial service.
Four sons and one daughter of five members of 48 Commando took part in the annual event at Christ Church, in Echo Square, Gravesend, on Sunday.
They were joined by Captain Hedley Philips, 84, who fought in the famous battle after joining the men as 2nd lieutenant a week after the landings.
The service marked the 65th anniversary of the day scores of young soldiers, who had been billeted and trained at the church, left in secret for the bloody battle.
Tragically, 217 of the 440 marines who left after being stationed, trained and having said their final prayers at the garrison church died at Normandy.
Captain Philips said: "It's quite strange. These were very ordinary people. They were men that you would go and have a pint with. They were friends you would have grown up with.
"The difference came when they were trained as Royal Marines. They were physically and mentally prepared for the landings and battle they had to face. If you were 19 and 20 and required tomorrow to get in a landing craft, land on a beach and fight a determined force you would find that quite tough."
Despite surviving combat at Saint Aubin-sur-Mer during the defining battle on June 6 1944 the five men, whose family attend every year, have since died.
Tony Winslade, whose father Sergeant Ron Winslade fought in the D-Day Landings at just 22-years-old, attended and continues to since his death. Wearing his father's medals, he proudly said: "It is so important we remember what our fathers' did that day.
"The reason for this service is that 48 Commando were billeted here. It was an important job in the war and our fathers' served this country bravely and returned but so many didn't.
"Because our fathers have passed away we are allowed to wear their medals on the right and I speak for all of us when I say we wear them with immense pride."
John Layton, whose father Y Troop sniper Jack Layton was good friends with Sergeant Winslade during the campaign added: "They were billeted here for a terribly important mission. It was top secret, they knew it was something big but no-one knew quite what.
"One night they were suddenly taken away to a war cage in Warsach. There they remained in isolation such was the secrecy of the mission. That mission was D-Day and when it came it was horrific. These were young men, off to fight one of the most important efforts of the war deserve our recognition even after 65 years, especially after 65 years."
Mr Layton, who now lives in Mallorca, added: "I have flown here today from where I now live abroad, that is how important it is to me."
They were also joined by Brian Terry, son of Frank Terry, Linda Ward, daughter of Sergeant Jack Ward and Robert Moulton, son of 48 Commando's commanding officer General Moulton.
The service was held just weeks before a poignant 65th anniversary of the D-Day Landings is to be held on the beaches of Normandy on June 6.
Reverend Sir Joe King is the churches previous vicar and secretary of the Gravesend Royal Marines Association took part in the service.
Gravesham MP, Adam Holloway, councillors, parishioners and Dick Hale, president of the Gravesend Branch of the Royal Marines Association also attended.
Dick Hale, 87, said: "D-Day was the first time we used combined operations and it was an amazing success. We lost a lot of men but it was a vitally important operation and how devastating it was, D-Day was also something absolutely amazing.
"The spirit, resolve and bravery displayed on D-Day cannot be matched."
Reminiscing about his time on the beaches, where he was charged with photographing the historic charge, he added: "I took hundreds of pictures, thousands. It was amazing, however, when we returned we discovered it was a dude camera. I had nothing."
During the service the church choir led with hymns and prayers recited, including one found on the body of a dead marine.
Towards the end of the service wreaths were laid at the 48 Royal Marine Commando memorial as Captain H Philips as the Last Post and Reveille trumpeted around the church as more than 100 people stood in silence.