Express & Star

Children asked to remember D-Day sacrifice ahead of 80th anniversary of landings

There are fears that the events of the Second World War could be forgotten unless more is done to engage younger generations.

Soldiers' graves

Children will be given D-Day history lessons as they are asked to always remember the sacrifices made ahead of the 80th anniversary of the landing.

The lessons come as part of a series of events that will raise awareness of the landings in the coming weeks, amid fears that the events of the Second World War could be forgotten unless more is done to engage younger generations.

On Monday, Normandy veteran Ken Hay will visit Rush Green Primary School in Romford, where he will give a lunchtime assembly.

Mr Hay has an ongoing relationship with Rush Green, with more than 200 children writing letters to “Grandad Ken” about what they have learnt from his assemblies.

Anniversary of the D-Day landings
D-Day veteran Ken Hay will visit Rush Green Primary School in Romford, where he will give a lunchtime assembly (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Then on Tuesday, a classroom of schoolchildren will be welcomed and taken on a tour of 10 Downing Street by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty.

The children will visit the Cabinet Room, where they will be given a lesson on the role of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the staff of 10 Downing Street during the Second World War and on D-Day.

They will then board a Second World War-era red London double-decker bus which will take them to the HMS Belfast – a Royal Navy ship which took part in the D-Day landings.

It comes as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) warned that this year’s 80th anniversary may be “the final major commemoration attended by veterans of D-Day”.

To raise awareness, the CWGC, which maintains war memorials and cemeteries, has announced a series of events in the UK where flaming torches will be passed from veterans to young people, representing the handing over of the responsibility for commemoration.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hands the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Torch of Commemoration to navy seaman D-Day veteran Peter Kent, 99, at Horse Guards, Whitehall (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Last week, Mr Sunak began the commemorative torch relay, handing the torch to Navy seaman D-Day veteran Peter Kent, 99, at Horse Guards, London.

The torch will now travel to key cemetery and memorial sites around the UK before crossing the channel with veterans for official commemorations in June.

The Prime Minister will also join members of the royal family at commemorative events in Normandy to mark the anniversary.

Mr Sunak will join the King and Queen at the UK’s national commemorative event in Portsmouth on June 5, where he will lead tributes.

The event will feature testimonies from veterans and military personnel as well as musical performances by a 79-piece military orchestra.

It will also involve more than 500 members of the Armed Forces, a 25-strong choir and Royal Marine drummers alongside a guard of honour formed of personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.

D-Day 80th anniversary
A view of the Standing with Giants silhouettes which create the For Your Tomorrow installation at the British Normandy Memorial, in Ver-Sur-Mer (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The MoD said the “moving climax” of the events in Portsmouth will be a “stunning” light show.

On June 6, Charles, Camilla, and Mr Sunak will then attend the Ministry of Defence and Royal British Legion’s (RBL) event at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer.

Hundreds of Armed Forces personnel will parachute into a historic D-Day drop zone in a recreation of the region’s airborne liberation.

It will conclude with a two-minute silence, accompanied by a special tribute flypast from the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales will attend the Canadian commemorative ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Mer, on the same date.

William will then attend the international commemorative ceremony at Omaha Beach, Saint Laurent sur Mer, later that day alongside 25 heads of state and veterans from around the world.

Alongside the events, some veterans will be watching the commemorations from the comforts of their homes.

One such veteran, Erich Suchland, will be celebrating his 100th birthday on June 1.

Mr Suchland landed on Sword Beach in Normandy on June 6 1944, and served as a signalman attached to the 51st Highland Division.

He enlisted at the earliest possible opportunity – on his 18th birthday.

“I had been in the Air Training Corps from 16 and was proficient at Morse code, so it made sense for me to be a Signalman – I can still do Morse code today at breakneck speed,” he said.

“I arrived in Normandy as part of a three-man Signals Unit with a Forward Field Ambulance Brigade providing comms in order to send ambulances to collect casualties.”

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