THE SACRIFICE of service personnel during the D-Day landings in Northern France 80 years ago will be remembered in West Devon next week.

The Royal British Legion is staging a wreath-laying ceremony at Tavistock War Memorial on Thursday, June 6 in honour of all those who took part in the multinational amphibious landing on the Normandy beaches in 1944.

This year’s events are especially significant because it includes the last major international memorial event in Normandy with so many of the veterans who take part having either passed away or being too frail to travel.

In Tavistock the town council will also light a beacon as it gets dark, at 9.15pm, on the evening of June 6 to which all are invited, one of a network of beacons being lit across the country.

A town council spokesman said: “The beacon lighting takes place on Whitchurch Down, by the Pimple. This is a public event for the community to join us in paying tribute to all those that played a part in D-Day, the largest naval, air and land operation in history. 

“The date marks the 80th Anniversary of Operation Overlord, D-Day, when the Allied Forces invaded Normandy. It is especially notable for Tavistock as the town hosted the 29th Division of the US Army who were based at Abbotsfield Hall and they used their base here to prepare for the military manoeuvre.

Locals recall tents and military vehicles on Whitchurch Down, even a field hospital and landing strip. During their stay, many of the soldiers became part of life in Tavistock.”

The American 29th Infantry Division left Tavistock for Europe in late May 1944, landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy as part of the operation to recapture mainland Europe from German Occupation on June 6.

There are numerous mementoes of Americans’ stay in Tavistock, with a plaque at the war memorial to their honour and the State Flags in the town hall. The 29th Division landed at Omaha Beach and suffered severe casualties.

Chris Smerdon, of the Tavistock branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL), said: “The wreath-laying will mark the sacrifice of all involved on that day, at 11am on 6 June 2024 at the war memorial; all are most welcome. This will coincide with the events in Normandy and at the National Arboretum. We are also most honoured that the Bedford Hotel will be hosting a D-Day Anniversary Commemorative Lunch on 2 June 2024, with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion. The RBL have issued a limited number of commemorative pins to mark the day. These will be around the town and at the Bedford from 2 June 2024.”

Chris, a former officer who served in the Royal Navy for 29 years, added: “It’s very important to mark the anniversary of D-Day, just as in any other military operation, because it acknowledges the sacrifices of those who died and were injured and all those who took part. Also, remembering helps us avoid making the same mistakes again.”