Families send tributes to honour D-Day heroes as coronavirus lockdown limits commemorations

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ivor Bennett

More than 700 families under coronavirus lockdown have sent tributes to be laid at the graves of fallen war heroes in France to mark the anniversary of D-Day.

In stark contrast to 2019’s extensive 75th anniversary commemorations, this year’s remembrance of the crucial 1944 allies invasion of Normandy is more muted.

Social distancing and lack of travel means veterans and their families are forced to honour to fallen from afar.

To support those unable to make the annual pilgrimage to France, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has been offering to place tributes at graves and memorials on their behalf.

Local gardeners for the CWGC, which maintains thousands of sites commemorating the 1.7million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two World Wars, have placed special markers at some of the main locations in Normandy to honour those who fought there.

The tributes bear the inscription “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”, a phrase chosen by the CWGC’s first literary adviser, the writer Rudyard Kipling.

D-Day commemorations in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. Credit: Virginia Mayo/AP

Xavier Puppinck, CWGC’s France area director, said: “When we welcomed thousands of veterans and visitors to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we couldn’t have imagined how different things would be just one year later.

“While it is sad that we cannot host any large gatherings this summer to pay respect in person, we can still pause and remember.”

Wooden crosses with names of WWII dead are held prior to being laid for the Portsmouth Trust group by British expatriate Steven Oldrid. Credit: AP

Commenting on the laying of tributes, he added: “We hope this small act from our local CWGC staff will show that, together, we can remember those who died in the World Wars forever.”

On Saturday, the British Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn, alongside other British officials, will attend a small, short ceremony at the Bayeux Cemetery in Normandy.

Further small events will take place at other sites that will respect France’s coronavirus regulations.

Lieutenant Ian Davidson Gilmour. Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission/PA

Hundreds of requests for tributes to be laid by the CWGC have come from around the world, including the UK and Canada.They include two from Dave Dykes, a retired teacher from Perth Academy in Scotland, who asked for a couple of former pupils to be honoured.

Lieutenant Ian Davidson Gilmour, whose parents were from Luncarty, Perthshire, was last seen suffering from machine-gun fire wounds on June 13, 1944.

he 23-year-old, serving with the Gordon Highlanders, was injured on a reconnaissance patrol and had told a comrade to return to their unit to deliver the information they had been sent out to collect. Lt Gilmour was not seen again.

The other former pupil, Serjeant David H Laing, whose parents were from Almondbank, Perthshire, and who served with the Black Watch, was killed in action on June 10 1944, aged 30.