D-Day remembered 70 years on

As world leaders gathered in Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the attack on Nazi-occupied France that turned the war, Ballarat had its own service on Friday at the Sturt St cenotaph to honour the servicemen who took part.

Margaret Wood, who moved to Ballarat from the UK three years ago, saw the boats off as they left for France.

"We worked on the landing boats - I got drafted, you see - and then went down to the docks to see them off as they went to France. The were lots and lots of them I never saw again."

She said one of the landing boats even carried her name.

"There were a few of us Margarets, and we knew one of the painters, so he put our name on a boat."

Around 3000 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen took part in the invasion, also most of these were support roles in Britain.

Ballarat resident Flight Officer Bruce Clifton, who was training in England when D-Day happened, said it looked like it would bring the war to an end. 

"The thoughts were the war would finish before we'd go on, but it ended up lasting for another 11 months or so. As a 20-year-old just coming out of training, I wanted to get involved," he said.

The total forces to land on the beaches and parachute behind enemy lines added up to over 150,000 men, supported by 6000 navy vessels and 13,000 aircraft.

Ballarat Royal Australian Air Force Association president Tom Roberts, whose group organised the gathering, said Australian airmen played an important role on the day.

"Many were aircrew in RAF units and (paratrooper) dropping and glider-towing aircraft," he said.

He gave a rundown of the events leading to D-day to the 15 people in attendance, and then read the 'Ode of remembrance,' from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For The Fallen.' The crowd softly repeated his promise: "Lest we forget."

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