THE BRAVERY and sacrifice of soldiers, sailors and air crew on D-Day will be remembered today (Thursday) in West Devon and the Tamar Valley.

Eighty years ago thousands of Allied service personnel died when 156,000 landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis.

Community events pay tribute to them today, with a remembrance service in Tavistock this morning at 11am and beacon lighting on Whitchurch Down this evening while a nostalgic celebratory weekend takes place at the Fox and Grapes pub in Lifton on Saturday and Sunday.

About 4,000 died on June 6, 1944. Among the survivors was army tank driver Richard Aldred, 99, of Callington, who is making a pilgrimage to honour his colleagues who died on the beaches where he landed on D-Day as reinforcements for the Battle of Normandy. Richard, who has lost his sight through macular degeneration, is one of a number of portraits of veterans on digital billboards over the past week in central London and Portsmouth as charity Blind Veterans UK mark the anniversary.

He recalls the battlefield horrors, and the tears shed burying those who died beside him, saying: “I’m just an ordinary person but I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been in the Royal Armoured Corps.”  

Richard Aldred in front of his Army tank during the Battle of Normandy backing up D-Day forces.
Richard Aldred in front of his Army tank during the Battle of Normandy backing up D-Day forces. (Submitted)

Meanwhile, Tavistock author Donna Baker – who is ringing bells in the parish church tower to mark D-Day – has memories as a five-year-old of the D-Day build-up living near Portsmouth Naval Base: “The road was unusually busy with long lines of American jeeps, tanks, landing craft and other vehicles making their way out to the Solent where the concrete Mulberry Harbours were built. The beaches were fenced off with barbed wire and nobody was allowed near. No one knew what was happening, but we all knew something big was happening.”