A couple of days before the 71st Anniversary of D-Day I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Gunner 'Bill' Glover as he arrived in Arromanches for the commemorations. I discovered that he would also be celebrating his 94th birthday whilst in Normandy too. As I was due to be in Arromanches the following morning for a photo-shoot of other British D-Day Veterans from Surrey I offered to capture some photos for him and his family and friends too. I didn't charge for these photos as a thank you to Bill for his efforts 71 years ago and also because sometimes it's better to be able to give something without expecting anything in return.
We met at 10am and first enjoyed a cup of tea together in one of the hotels which has views over the beach and the Mulberry Harbour that rests on both the beach and out to sea, that played such an important role in the D-Day Landings. I discovered that Bill had brought a poppy wreath with him that he wanted to place in the sea himself to say goodbye to his comrades who unfortunately didn't come home. The timing was perfect as the tide was nearly at it's highest point. I didn't know how tricky it would be for a 93 year old to walk to the harbour wall and descend the twenty or so steps to the beach but I was pleasantly surprised to discover how sprightly Bill is.
Bill took his time and his moment to think about his lost friends, then placed the wreath at the water's edge and saluted out to sea. With the slightly incoming tide you'll see that Bill then tried to encourage the wreath to float out to sea with his walking sticking, but somewhat in vain. That's when it happened. An amazing moment that warmed the hearts of everyone who saw it and brought a lump to our throats. Let me explain.
That morning in Arromanches there were some members of the Dutch army who would be participating in the official commemoration ceremony on the 6th of June. A couple of the soldiers saw Gunner Bill struggling and dashed down the steps and asked him whether he would like them to put the wreath further out in the water. (They spoke perfect English). As he gently took the wreath from Bill I mentioned to him that he might get wet feet. He simply shrugged his shoulders and marched straight into the sea! You'll see in the photos that he waded in, up to his knees and placed the wreath on the water.
He came out and shook hands with Bill and then posed for photos despite his soaking wet trousers and boots. What a fabulous gesture by a fine soldier. He didn't hesitate in doing what he knew was the right thing to do in the circumstances, with no thought for himself or the wet boots he's be wearing for the rest of the day. We stayed on the beach a while longer whilst members of the public approached Bill and shook his hand with thanks for his efforts on D-Day.
I lost sight of the soldier involved whilst continuing to photograph Bill's visit to the beach. Some time later I approached some other members of the Dutch army and showed them the LCD screen of the soldier involved. I gave them my details and invited him to get in touch for copies of the photos of that moment. I'm glad to say that he soon emailed me and therefore I now know his name and rank which allows me to say "Congratulations and thank you Sergeant Jansen of the Fusiliers of the Royal Netherlands Army. Your selfless gesture will be remembered by all that saw it and appreciated even more so by Gunner A.W Glover OFC and his friends and family."
Thank you also to Gunner Bill and all those brave soldiers like him who landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, many of whom never came home. 'Lest we forget'