They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
And so it was that on a sunny day in June, we gathered beneath the tall trees. We assembled in the quarry behind Broomhill Cottage to remember those that took part in one of Europe’s largest set-piece battles: the invasion of the beaches of Normandy.
A Most Perfect Setting
The setting was perfect: overlooking Jupiter Point where thousands of young men of the US 29th Division, departed from Embarkation Hard PS some seventy-five years earlier. Men bound for the beaches of Normandy. The Service of Remembrance was conducted by the Reverend Andrew Corness, Royal Navy Chaplain and was attended by Capt. Rich Harris Commanding Officer, together with staff and trainees from HMS Raleigh. Also present were the Mayor of Torpoint Cllr Chris Goodman and her Consort Mr Chris Goodman, together with representatives from the Royal British Legion.
Veterans and Royal Navy personnel were joined by members of the public and we stood beneath a canopy of dappled-green to give thanks in prayer and song. Then, as the Last Post drew to an end and the bugles fell silent, crisp, clear bird-song echoed about the clearing.
“I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good Luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking”. Extract from General Eisenhower’s D-Day Order.
In the lead up to D-Day, Operation Overlord saw some 8,900 US personnel and their equipment billeted across the Rame Peninsula from Whitsand Bay to Plymouth Sound. Bases were set-up at locations including Torpoint, Raleigh, Scraesdon Fort, Blarrick, Tregantle, and here at Antony Woodland Garden. Aged just five, Sir Richard Carew-Pole remembers them well. The woods were teaming with men and equipment sheltered from aerial reconnaissance beneath a thick canopy of green. He recalls the hubbub of daily activity, the noise and smells, and that they were friendly, even dishing out the odd chocolate bar or stick of gum to well-behaved youngsters. Then, without warning they were gone; the woodland was silent and still once again. It was as though all that had gone before had been a dream.
Keeping the Memory Alive
The Americans would have found Antony Estate to be a beautiful, peaceful and quiet corner of Cornwall and in seventy-five years since then, the woodland has changed very little. Despite all their activity, there’s very little evidence of their stay to be found in the Gardens today. Here and there you might happen upon the ruins of a building or bunker, but nothing more.
As you gaze up at the fresh summer leaves upon majestic oak, yew and beech, its humbling to think that these are the very same trees that afforded protection to those young men all those years ago.
In many ways it is the flora and fauna, the quiet waters of the estuary, the landscape itself that will keep the memory alive, and bear testament to the scale of the achievement on the beaches of Normandy.