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126 Squadron Land in Normandy

Article posted: Nov 08, 2009 by Sqn Ldr Wilson

126 (City of Derby) Squadron have paid tribute to the thousands of soldiers who died in the D-Day landings in 1944, with a remembrance ceremony on Juno Beach in Normandy, France.

Thirty-five cadets from Derby visited Normandy from 25th to 31st October. The highlight of their visit was to perform a remembrance ceremony on Juno Beach. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Bernières-sur-Mer, local dignitaries and officials. The guest of honour was a local resident who was just 200 metres from the beach in Bernières when the allied troops landed on 6th June 1944.

During the ceremony, the Mayor thanked the young cadets for taking the time to remember those who had fought to provide freedom to the people of Bernières-sur-Mer and the surrounding towns. During a 2 minute silence, Flight Sergeant Samuel Woodward and Cadet Melissa Robinson laid a wreath at the waters edge. After the ceremony, the cadets were invited back to the Town Hall where they were all presented with a town commemorative badge.

The Cadets were also lucky enough to meet with Madame Gondrée at the Gondrée Café in Bénouville. The café was the first building to be liberated on 6th June. Madame Gondrée was a small child at the time but still had vivid memories to recount to the cadets.

During the week, the cadets also visited Pegasus Bridge and Museum which is home to a very rare Horsa Glider. They visited the British cemeteries at Bayeux and Ranville and spent one day touring the American sector of the D-Day landing beaches.

Flight Sergeant Woodward said on the last day of the trip, “This has been the best camp I have ever been on. The museum in Bayeux is the most informative museum I have ever visited. The time we spent in the British cemeteries was very moving and laying the wreath in the ceremony at Bernières was a real honour for me.”

126 Squadron had a break from the history of D-Day on the Wednesday and paid a visit to one of the most famous landmarks in France, Mont St Michel. The cadets spent several hours exploring the winding narrow streets that lead up to the monastery at the top of the hill.

Busy days spent learning about the history of D-Day were followed by some enjoyable evening entertainment. Sergeant Joshua Bray said, “The weather this week has been fantastic. We have had sunshine every day so we have been able to play rounders, football and bowls on the beach”. In addition, the cadets spent a fun evening at the local bowling alley and were treated to a night out in a traditional French restaurant.

This year, cadets from 126 squadron were joined on their annual overseas camp by 3 cadets from 492 (Solihull) Squadron and 2 cadets from 1300 (Sutton) Squadron. The cadets soon mixed in and made a lot of new friends.

Flying Officer Jackie Barker was responsible for putting together the program for the week. She said, “It is important that the youth of today understand the sacrifice that thousands of men made in 1944. We try to combine a detailed tour of the key D-Day sites with some more relaxed and fun activities. I think all of the cadets have gone away with excellent memories of the camp.”