Portsmouth, France, Belgium, Holland, Hull
Please bear with this page for a couple of days - it is being rewritten, but this joureny was so "epic" that it will take a while!
The D Day stone, Southsea, Portsmouth. The site of the original lighting ceremony of the Freedom Flame, by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery on 13th September 1948.
The first act in our pilgrimage to Wageningen, to refresh the Flame, was to re-enact the lighting of the Flame here, at 11am on Monday 28th April. The recreation of this event was with our guest of honour, Lady Arabella Stuart-Smith, grand-daughter of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, seen here wearing blue. From the stone the Flame was taken to South Parade Pier, just as it was in 1948.
From Portsmouth the Flame was carried to Ouistreham in Normandy. Transport to Normandy was courtesy of Brittany Ferries. Here, the Captain of the ship takes the Flame in Olympic Specification Protector Lamps for safe passage on the bridge.
Landing at Ouistreham, the Flame was quickly taken to Strongpoint Cod, Sword Beach for our first continental ceremony - The Flame being ceremonially handed over as a Torch to a Dutch Marine. Hand over was made by Mr Ray Lord, D Day veteran. The ceremony, at Strongpoint Cod, the objective of the 2nd East Yorkshire Battalion on D Day was at 0755 hrs, the time that Ray landed on this spot, as part of the second wave onto the beach.
The handover of this Torch of Unity was symbolically accompanied by pipes played by our Patron, Mr John Millin, son of the D Day piper Bill Millin who landed about 200 metres from this spot and walked along the water's edge playing pipes during the landing of 4 Commando.
The Flame was then handed over to a team of cyclists who then started the overland journey to the Belgian/Dutch border.
We weaved around the cycle team, as both groups, British and Dutch laid wreaths and left candles, lit from the Flame, at many different places. In total, our small British team laid 26 wreaths in the following days.
The first wreath to be laid was at the statue to Bill Millin, D Day piper, Sword Beach. This image is British 4 Commando landing on Sword Beach. The man to the right of the snake of men in the water is The Lord Lovat, their commanding officer. The man in the foreground, in silhouette, is Bill Millin, Lord Lovat's personal piper. He's famous for walking up and down the water's edge playing pipes during the landings. His son, John, is a Patron of the Freedom Flame and accompanied the Flame through this entire pilgrimage. We count ourselves as very privileged to have him as one of our number.
From here to the statue to Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Colleville-Montgomerybefore the monument to French Commandos at the Casino, Ouistreham and onwards to Pegasus Bridge, first objective liberated on D Day and the obligatory cup of tea at Cafe Gondree, the first building liberated on D Day. Here we are laying a wreath at the monument to John Howard, leader of the Coup de Main attack that capured the bridge.
Bayeux was first town liberated, 7th June 1944.
Thiepval monument - with over 72,000 names of men who have no grave. The largest Commonwealth monument in the world.
Ypres, Belgium. The Menin Gate. Blessing of the Flame at 7:30pm by Monsignor Professor John Noordermeer, Chaplain to Passchendaele branch of Scottich Legion. Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate 8:00pm
Passchendaele - War Monument to those lost in the Third Battle of Ypres.
Breendonk concentration camp, Belgium. Outside Belgium, little is known of Breendonk. The concentration camp here was liberated on 3rd September 1944. We have been asked to present a symbolic Marigold to Breendonk concentration camp in memory of civilians who died there.
SHAPE Headquarters - Mons, Belgium. The modern day Headquarters of NATO in Europe.
Please come back later - page under construction!