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Commemorating D-Day 80 in Chelmsford

D Day Logo

On 6 June 2024, Chelmsford will join authorities and communities across the UK in marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944.

D-Day was the largest naval, air and land operation in history. It involved hundreds of thousands of brave soldiers from the UK, the US, Canada, and other countries, who heroically stormed the beaches of Normandy in events which led to the liberation of northern France from Nazi occupation.

This year, activities to pay tribute to the remarkable heroism of the D-Day landings will take place across the UK, led by The Royal Naval Association and other military organisations.

As we approach the 80th anniversary, here’s a roundup of activities taking place across Chelmsford to commemorate the inspiring actions of 1944.

Flying the D-Day flag

From Thursday 6 June, a special D-Day 80 flag will fly over the Civic Centre for one week, in tribute to those who gave their lives at home and abroad, and whose sacrifice enabled peace and freedom today.

To mark the historic occasion, The Mayor of Chelmsford will also join other mayors, town criers and officials across the country in reading the official D-Day 80 proclamation in remembrance of the selfless sacrifice and courage of all those involved in D-Day. The proclamation will be recorded and shared on the city council and mayor’s social media channels from 8am on 6 June.

The lighting of the Beacons

The D-Day landings are often considered by historians to be the beginning of the end of World War Two. They provided a beacon of hope during the darkest days of the war, and to reflect this, special beacons will be lit across the UK and the world on D-Day 80. As they are lit, The International Tribute will be read out in remembrance of the selfless sacrifice and courage of all those involved in D-Day.

Several locations across Chelmsford will take part in this activity, with many beacon lighting events also featuring additional activities to celebrate the occasion.

D-Day Commemoration at Channels Park

On 6 June a free D-Day 80 community beacon lighting event, organised by Chelmsford Garden Community Council, Chelmsford City Council, and the Mayor of Chelmsford, will take place at Channels Park.

Tickets are now sold out for the event, but a waiting list is available on Eventbrite for those who have been unable to secure tickets. Spaces are limited so you must have a ticket to attend.

D Day Celebrations At Chelmsford Garden Community (1910 X 1000 Px) (1) (002)

Starting from 7pm, the evening will feature music, poetry, cadet parades, readings, and speeches from members of the local and wider Chelmsford community.

At 9.15pm Channels will join other communities across Britain in the lighting of the beacon and the reading of The International Tribute.

There’ll also be space for picnics and, in honour of National Fish and Chip Day, (which also falls on 6 June!) fish and chips will be available from Flitch and Chips’ food van. My Little Drinks Van will also be providing tea, coffee, cake and both soft and alcoholic drinks.

The Royal British Legion will also be collecting donations during the evening for attendees who would like to make a contribution.

South Woodham Ferrers D-Day 80 Anniversary

South Woodham Ferrers Town Council is marking D-Day with two special events. On Thursday 6 June they will join the nation in lighting a beacon at 9.15pm to mark the 80th anniversary. The event will be attended by The Mayor of Chelmsford, The Mayor of South Woodham Ferrers, and the Deputy Lieutenant of Essex. It starts from 8.10pm at the Village Hall Playing Field and will feature performances from the Sid Bolan Big Band and from a bugler, before the official beacon lighting takes place. The Village Hall bar will also be open, and fish and chips will be available to purchase.

Commemorations continue in South Woodham Ferrers Town Centre on Saturday 8 June with a World War Two-themed event from 1-6pm, attended by The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Chelmsford, The Mayor of South Woodham Ferrers and His Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Essex. Expect 1940s-style acts The Jive Aces and others live on the main stage and bandstand, appearances from military services and the Essex Historic Military Vehicle Association, and even a children’s WWII ‘Home Guard’! Plus, a market and food stalls to browse.

Both events are free to attend, and all are welcome.

Galleywood Parish Council D-Day 80 Commemorations

Galleywood Parish Council will be marking D-Day 80 with a small event at the Keene Hall from 10am on 6 June, which will also be attended by The Mayor of Chelmsford. A service will be led by the Reverend David Cattle to give thanks to all those who gave their lives for the freedom of Europe.

During the service, Galleywood will light their beacon and raise the flag of Remembrance in honour of this historic event. Afterwards, refreshments will be served in the Keene Hall alongside D-Day presentations and displays.

D Day 80 Commemorations Poster

Special tribute artworks created by ex-serviceman

Parish Councils in West Hanningfield, East Hanningfield, Woodham Ferrers & Bicknacre, and Good Easter have this month unveiled artworks to commemorate the upcoming D-Day 80 anniversary.

The wooden D-Day memorials were specially designed and built by John Cousins, an ex-serviceman who now works as a Handyman for West Hanningfield, East Hanningfield, and Woodham Ferrers & Bicknacre Parish Councils. John served 26 years in the British Army with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) TA, reaching the rank of Artificer Quartermaster Sergeant before retiring in 1995.

John personally put forward the idea to create these memorials, and generously designed, built and erected them free of charge, with just a small fee paid for the materials. He hopes they will serve as a way of remembering the sacrifices made by members of the armed services, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, our lives and indeed, the world.

You can visit the memorials in person at the following locations:

  • East Hanningfield: on The Tye outside All Saints Parish Church.
  • West Hanningfield: at the junction of Middlemead and Church Road beside the Village Sign.
  • Good Easter: on the green beside the Village Hall.
  • Woodham Ferrers: on the green at Ormands Cresent.
  • Bicknacre: on the village green opposite the White Swan pub.

Living Memorial service in Rettendon

On 6 June, a special service will also take place at the Living Memorial site at White House Farm in Rettendon. The Living Memorial is a garden divided into different covered areas with memorials to different 20th-century conflicts. It was created in 2008 by Fran and Peter Theobald as a place for anyone to visit and pay their respects to servicemen, women, and animals.

Their special D-Day 80 service on 6 June is open to all to come along to. Attendees should arrive from 11.30am for a 12pm start. It will be held beside the site’s D-Day landing beach memorial and will begin with a piper band parade marching past the memorial. The service will then commence, featuring hymns, readings, and prayers. The Last Post will be played by a bugler and a two-minute silence will ensue before wreaths are laid at the memorial.

It is hoped that Essex’s oldest Normandy veteran, 104-year-old Sapper Donald Sheppard, will be able to attend this special service to pay his respects. The centenarian was a Royal Engineer attached to The Highland Division and served as a dispatch rider during the D-Day landings.

Don was involved in the design of the Normandy D-Day Landings memorial, which was unveiled at Rettendon in 2023, and he hopes to travel to the site again in 2024 to mark the 80th anniversary. As he is no longer well enough to travel to Normandy in France or even to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the D-Day Living Memorial in Rettendon provides an opportunity for him to remember the landings and pay tribute to his comrades who never returned from the beaches of Normandy.

Chelmsford Cathedral service

A special Evensong D-Day Service with The Royal British Legion Essex will take place at Chelmsford Cathedral at 5.15pm on Friday 7 June to give thanks to those who took part in the landings 80 years ago.

The service will last 45 minutes and include hymns, readings, and music by the Cathedral Choir. The Mayor of Chelmsford will be in attendance and the service is also open to residents to attend. Note there is limited capacity and spaces are available on a first come, first served basis.

Chelmsford Cathedral (3)
Chelmsford Cathedral.

A D-Day memory box for Manor Lodge Care Home’s celebrations

Elsewhere in Chelmsford, Manor Lodge Care home will be holding a D-Day 80 party for residents, and Chelmsford Museum will be helping them celebrate and look back by loaning a specially prepared D-Day memory box, full of WWII memorabilia. Museum volunteers will also be attending the event to help bring the contents of the box to life and guide conversations around the objects.

D Day 80 Memory Box
Items going into the D-Day 80 memory box for Manor Lodge Care Home.

The session is part of the museum’s outreach programme, helping those who are unable to visit the museum in person to interact with the past and reminisce by loaning objects from the museum’s collections.

You can find information about events taking place across the UK and Normandy to mark D-Day 80 2024 online: https://dday80.campaign.gov.uk/.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.