D-Day anniversary events reveal victory for veterans' groups

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THE EXTENT of the Government's climbdown over the D-Day anniversary events in Hyde Park, London, was revealed by the Department of National Heritage yesterday.

What was once described as a 'dazzlingly entertaining family day' by Iain Sproat, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the department, will now be a more restrained occasion, renamed a 'Tribute to the Normandy Campaign'.

The event has also been postponed from 3 July to 14 August to coincide, as nearly as possible, with the 50th anniversary of the end of the Normandy campaign when the Allies cut off much of the German army.

The changes are a victory for the Royal British Legion and the Normandy Veterans' Association, which were horrified by the celebratory tone of the department's original plans and wanted the emphasis to be on commemoration.

The day will now have four main elements with a strong educational theme. These are displays and archive material showing what life was like in the 1940s, a big-band concert of music from the era, a religious service and a wartime-style concert party.

In an attempt to avoid further public relations fiascos the Government will continue to consult the two veterans' groups about the details of the Hyde Park gathering. Effectively, they have been granted the right to veto anything unsuitable.

Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, revealed that the change of date had been suggested by the veterans' groups.

Lt-Col Philip Creasy, secretary general of the Royal British Legion, said: 'We accept the Tribute to the Normandy Campaign and the commemorative and educational theme of this sensitive programme.' He went on: 'Our original disagreement was that we did not agree that D-Day per se was something that should be a jamboree. We felt this was not commemorating the sacrifices made by widows and veterans who gave so much to enable ourselves and our Allies to free Europe.'