Lisburn veterans pay their respects on beaches of Normandy
D-Day veterans Stanley Burrows and Richard Keegan on Sword
Beach were they landed with the Second Battalion of the
Royal Ulster Rifles 60 years ago.
A GROUP of former soldiers from the Royal Ulster Rifles have recalled an emotional journey to the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in France.
|The group of the Royal Ulster Rifles who led from the Royal British Legion in Lisburn to the 60th anniversary of D-Day in France. US27-746|
The party, including Councillor Ned Falloon, John Walsh, Archie Mitchell, Billy Donald, Stanley Burrows and Richard
Keegan, left Lisburn on June 3 for Port-en-Bessin in France were they spent five days visiting the Normandy Beaches, the cemeteries and the memorials erected in honour of the price paid by the Royal Ulster Rifles during the Second World War.
"The French people couldn't do enough for us," said John Walsh. "They are very friendly. Everywhere we went we were welcomed. People were hugging and kissing the veterans and local children were even running around getting their autographs."
The local group spent several days visiting the various museums and memorials in the area and were overwhelmed by the reality of what the soldiers had gone through 60 years ago.
|Lisburn Councillor Ned Falloon lays a wreathat the Omaha Beach memorial. US27-744SP|
Councillor Ned Falloon, laid a wreath at the Omaha Beach memorial.
"I was an Ulster Rifleman in active service in Borneo but it was nothing compared to what those guys went through in World War Two, explained John. "Half the time officers were killed and the men left had to take command. It is amazing what they went through. I have seen many war films but film makers will never come close to the reality of it."
Visiting the military cemeteries in Normandy, the men were amazed at how beautifully well kept they were. However, a local primary teacher revealed just why the graves were so well kept.
"One teacher told me that when children start school in the area around the Normandy beaches they are allocated a British grave and it is their responsibility to look after it. The graves are amazingly well kept. Everywhere is so clean," added John.
The Lisburn party also attended the memorial service led by Prince Charles at the British Memorial Garden in Caen. At the end of the service the local men watched with pride as the band of the Royal Irish Regiment marched off to the sound of Killaloe, the Regimental March, much to the delight of the thousands of spectators.
Lisburn man Archie Mitchell, who also travelled to the anniversary commemorations, found the experience particularly moving.
"I thought it was a very emotional experience because my uncle, Sergeant Major Albert McConville, was injured during the D Day landings," said Archie.
"It was nice to see where he landed and the villages they saw and what they had to go through to let the French take over their own country again. So many Ulster Riflemen were killed there and it was important to see the memorials.
Billy Donald had only one complaint about the visit. "It was definitely worth going to France and it was important to pay our respects, but we simply did not have enough time to see everything that we wanted to see."
The Lisburn branch of the Royal Ulster Rifles Association are hoping to return to Caen next year because everyone agreed there was much more that they wanted to see.