D-Day 75 Garden a fitting tribute to Normandy Veterans
23rd May 2019
On the Royal Hospital’s south grounds the D-Day 75 Garden stands as an ephemeral and touching reminder of the sacrifice made by so many on the shores of Normandy on the 6th June 1944.
The garden is part of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and was created by the charity D-Day Revisited in partnership with multi-award winning designer John Everiss. John has been landscaping and designing gardens for more than 30 years, and whose interest in World War II was sparked by his father’s experiences as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command.
John drew inspiration for the garden from his family’s wartime experiences and those of the Normandy Veterans, he explained:
“It taught me how gardens can tell a story and move people emotionally”
Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Tobias Ellwood, took time to speak the D-Day veterans, who travelled from all over the UK to attend the garden, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Giving his impressions on the day, Ellwood said:
“The garden that has been put together by John Everiss and his team, members of our Armed Forces and the D-Day Revisited charity is a fitting reminder of the sacrifice of our greatest generation. I look forward to visiting it again at its future home, overlooking Gold Beach in Arromanches”
“It was an incredible experience to see the garden and meet veterans and Chelsea Pensioners who were there on the beaches of Normandy in 1944.
Also in attendance was Chelsea Pensioner Bill Fitzgerald, 94, who landed on Gold Beach on 6th June 1944. Speaking about his fallen comrades, Bill said:
“I think about them all the time. You always remember the lads who didn’t come back”
Accompanying the Minister was also the Royal Hospital’s Governor; General Sir Adrian Bradshaw who spoke with Pensioner Bill Fitzgerald and several other D-Day Veterans, taking time to reflect on the significance of this important Allied battle.
The theme of water is used on one side of the garden, with young soldiers emerging from the crashing waves of stone and evoking scenes of the beaches of Normandy. The beach is punctuated by steel spikes, similar to the ones used to deter Allied gliders on D-Day. The second theme is old soldiers connecting with their younger selves. A stone statue of Veteran Bill Pendell looks on at a statue of himself in his younger years. Sadly, Bill was not around to see the finished sculpture before he passed away.
As the D-Day Veterans are all of an advanced age, this may be one of the last opportunities to meet with their fellow soldiers, sharing their stories with the generations who have not experienced events of such a devastating scale and which had a profound impact on the lives of so many.
Speaking about the opportunity of hosting the D-Day 75 Garden at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Governor General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said:
“It was a great honour to host the D-Day 75 Garden this week as a number of our Veterans were there on D-Day and during the Normandy campaign. The garden is a creative way to remember them”
The garden was installed with the help of the Royal Engineers, who will assist in transporting it in its entirety to Arromanches on conclusion of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Saturday 25th May.