A large crowd gathered today at the waterfront in Findhorn on the 80th anniversary of D-Day to remember the poignant sacrifices of so many. Moray served as one of the main training grounds prior to the famous landings on June 6, 1944, due to its similarities with the Normandy coastline.

A multi-denominational service culminated with two wreaths being laid in the water by a crew from MIRO (the Moray Inshore Rescue Organisation).

One wreath was to remember all the service personnel who were killed during the subsequent invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Addressing the large crowd, Major General Peter Grant Peterkin spoke with pride about how Moray had contributed 80 years ago in the fight against Hitler’s evil regime.

The lives of many local civilians were turned completely upside down by the sudden influx of tens of thousands of troops during the top secret preparations for D-Day.

“There was little complaint because people here were ready to ‘play their part’ in the war effort.”

Group Captain Jim Lee and Moray Council’s civic leader John Cowe carry the wreaths to the boat.

Group Captain Jim Lee and Moray Council’s civic leader John Cowe carry the wreaths to the boat.

It was related how the villagers in Kintessack near Culbin sands, as well as a number of other coastal farms, were given just three weeks to evacuate their homes.

Within such a short time it was necessary to complete the threshing of the grain harvest as well as lift the potato and sugar beet crops.

The Major General, who lives near Forres, added: “Such was the need for haste that 18 Italian POWs were sent from the camp in Archiestown to help, along with members of the Home Guard and some Land Army girls.”

Meanwhile, the hurried disposal of livestock had seen the mart at Forres lay on special sales, but prices were lower than usual because, due to the need for secrecy, they were not widely advertised.

Some of the civilians would end up spending several months living with friends and relations.

Rounding off his account, the Major General said: “D-Day was to be a great, if costly, success. But never let it be forgotten the important and selfless part in that success played by our forebears in the affected local communities here in the Moray Firth.”

Amongst the many who came to pay their respects to the heroes of eight decades ago were service personnel for both Kinloss Barracks and RAF Lossiemouth.

The two wreaths were handed to MIRO by John Cowe, the civic leader of Moray Council, and Group Captain Jim Lee, who’s the station commander at the air base.

A Typhoon stationed at RAF Lossiemouth also flew over Findhorn Bay during the proceedings as an added mark of respect.

Julie Wheeler wearing her deceased partner’s medal.

Julie Wheeler wearing her deceased partner’s medal.

Julie Wheeler, who’s aged 86 and lives in Fochabers, was there in memory of her partner, Colin Clements, a D-Day veteran who had been just 19-years-old at the time.

On her coat she wore the legion d’honneur medal which had been awarded to Colin by the French government not long before his eventual death in 2018.

Julie said: “We owe our freedom now to what they did then. After the landings in Normandy they went on to liberate the rest of France and Western Europe from the Nazis.

“It’s vitally important they are remembered for that. All our lives would be very different without the sacrifices they made.”

A loving but deeply poignant letter, read out today at Findhorn, underlined these sacrifices.

It was written by one soldier on the eve of the invasion to his wife. It would be his last letter home as he was killed in action shortly afterwards.

 

The Last Post is played at a service in Findhorn to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

The Last Post is played at a service in Findhorn to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Stephen Lockwood from the Forres branch of the Royal British Legion played the Last Post on the bugle. Bruce Terris from the same branch played the Reveille.

Pipe Major Barrie Ashby from the RAF Lossiemouth band and the Kinloss Military Wives Choir also contributed musically.

Readings, prayers and further speeches were given by Padre Rob Birnie, Reverend Deon Oelofse, Reverend Donald Prentice, Reverend Dr Hamilton Inbadas and Major General Seymour Monro, the Lord-Lieutenant of Moray.

Paying respect 80 years on from D-Day.