Remembering D-Day

3rd June 2019

Thursday 6th June 2019 marks the 75thanniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. The Battle of Normandy lasted from June 1944 to August 1944 and was pivotal in securing the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. 

Listen to the accounts of four Chelsea Pensioners; who each took part in the battle of Normandy, in the video below:

It had been meticulously planned by the Allies who designed a large-scale military deception, known as Operation Bodyguard, intended to mislead the Germans about the genuine invasion target. The battle – codenamed Operation Overlord – commenced on 6 June 1944, 24 hours later than originally planned, due to bad weather. In the early hours of D-Day 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces began to land on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of the Normandy region of France. It was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. 

By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the German armies.  

This year D-Day coincides with another important anniversary for the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The Founder’s Day parade, which is also known as Oak Apple Day, is a celebration of the Royal Hospital’s inauguration in 1692. The parade is always held on a date close to 29th May – the birthday of Charles II and the date of his restoration as King in 1660. The Oak reference commemorates the escape of the future King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (1651) when he hid in an oak tree to avoid capture by the Parliamentary forces, and is expressed through all Chelsea Pensioners wearing oak leaves on their famous scarlet uniforms. 

The Royal Hospital Chelsea was commissioned by King Charles II as a refuge for soldiers who had fought for their country and were ‘broken by age or war’.  His vision was brought to life by architect Sir Christopher Wren. The Royal Hospital was the first institution in the UK to offer round the clock care for army veterans and as such, is one of Britain’s first social services.  

With over a dozen Chelsea Pensioners serving in the Battle of Normandy and with a handful of those serving on D-Day itself, the parade will include a special recognition of these Pensioners.    

 

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