Disgruntled veterans blame Tories for D-Day 'muddle': Marianne Darch finds opinion is divided on how the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy should be celebrated

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The Independent Online
LESLIE FROST, 75, chairman of the 10,000-strong Normandy Veterans' Association, feels that street parties are not the way to mark the 50th anniversary of D- Day on 6 June.

'The day should be a commemoration not a celebration,' Mr Frost said. 'Street parties are definitely not appropriate . . . We would like a more dignified feeling of thankfulness and remembrance. I personally would like the celebrations to be left until next August, which will mark the end of the war; not that we want to celebrate victory, but rather 50 years of peace amongst the principal countries of Europe'.

Ed Hannath, 73, general secretary of the Veterans' Association, believes that the affair has been blown out of proportion. 'On 6 June, thousands of veterans will go to five different cemeteries in Normandy to honour the dead, it is as simple as that. It is a pilgrimage. After D-Day we will help the French celebrate their liberation and that is when it is right and proper,' he said. 'I won't be celebrating until the anniversary of August 1945. There were lads still out in Europe then and the war did not end there, it was still going on in the Far East.'

Other veterans are disgruntled by the Government's handling of arrangements. Ron Eastwood, 70, said: 'The muddle is all the fault of the Johnny-come-lately politicians who like to have a finger in the pie. They are dealing with something they know nothing about. The arrangements should have been left to the military, they would have done a lot better. The hotel thing also really displeased me. Anybody would think that the French invaded France to liberate themselves.

'People would do a lot better to just go to church and celebrate the end of the war instead. D-Day was probably the start of the end of the war, but 3,000 men died that day and 37,000 died during the liberation of Normandy. This is not a cause for celebration.'

Despite the significance of the 1944 Normandy campaign and the feelings it rouses in the older generation, there seemed to be a basic lack of knowledge among younger generations.

Aaron Vernon, 11, from Watford, Hertfordshire, was not sure which war it concerned, as he had only got up to the Battle of Hastings in history. Matthew Schmolle, another 11-year-old, from Barnes, south-west London, managed to place the campaign in the Second World War. 'I know it happened in Normandy. I did a project on World War Two when I was eight, but I don't remember much now,' he said.

Ten-year-old Iain Robertson from Aberystwyth, Dyfed, was unable to identify the event. But his father Ian, 34, had a better understanding of the issue. 'D-Day should definitely be celebrated as the liberation of France is such an important day in history. I believe there should be street parties in memory of the people who took part, to make sure that what they did shall never be forgotten,' he said.

It seems that others would beg to differ. Brian Jackson, 63, from Kent, said: 'Only the people who were involved in the fighting can know whether public celebrations are the right way to commemorate the event. As I knew people who died there I do not think it is very appropriate . . . If the politicians want to have a victory parade with soldiers from both sides attending, then they should have it in Berlin. After all we fought for six years to stop the Germans from marching down The Mall.'

Leading article, page 15

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