*** DEBUG END ***

Courage of D-Day forces is remembered

27 June 2014


From the Revd Paul Abram
Sir, - D Company of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry were the first British troops in Normandy in 1944, landing by glider just after midnight to take the bridges over the River Orne and the Caen Canal. It was essential to capture the town of Ranville close by; this was achieved by the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion by 2.30 a.m. Ranville, the first town to be liberated, was counter-attacked repeatedly by German armour and infantry. It was always held. The casualties were heavy over the six weeks until the breakout.

Initially, the dead were buried in the cemetery, and are commemorated on a plaque inside the church. It became obvious that it was impractical to continue burying the dead in the churchyard, and so General Gale, commanding the 6th Airborne Division, and the Mayor of Ranville, Count Rohan de Chabot, decided that waste ground to the south of the church should be used. It was dedicated by George Hales, the Senior Chaplain, and Fr McGowan, the only surviving Roman Catholic chaplain.

Today, those cemeteries are the focal points of ceremonies that have continued each year since the end of the Second World War. In what is now the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, there are 2235 graves, of which 97 are unidentified, and also 321 German graves. On 6 June every year there is a mass in the church, during which 20 standard-bearers are placed round the altar, and the Anglican chaplain shares the service with the parish priest, after which there is a service at the Cross of Rememberance outside. This year, more than 3000 people attended. Also visited during the week were the Merville Battery, the Museum near the bridge over the Caen Canal, Breville, Benouville, and Putot en Auge, where 38 graves surround the Norman church.

This year, as it is the 70th anniversary, is special. The Veterans in the official group numbered only a few, and yet the Prince of Wales, as he has done before, together with the Duchess of Cornwall, was very much one of us, not least because he has earned his Airborne wings. For the service, we were joined by a large number of French schoolchildren, who live in freedom and appreciate the sacrifice made for them. The veterans also appreciate that what they and their comrades went through was worth while.

Paddock End, Kimpton
Andover, Hants SP11 8PG

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)