Project71 veterans and volunteers commemorate the 79th Anniversary of D-Day at St Mary’s Church in Portchester

History / Wed 7th Jun 2023 at 08:05am

Project 71 is a strictly not for profit organisation run by humble volunteers, providing support for WW2 Veterans.  They are not a huge group, do not have celebrities supporting them and do not have thousands of pounds in the bank, but with the support of the public, they have achieved so much.

At the weekend, Project71 veterans and volunteers commemorated the 79th Anniversary of D Day at St Mary’s Church in Portchester with a short service and a lunch. They honoured absent friends and marked the heroism of our Normandy Veterans. D-Day was, of course, the beginning of the end of Nazi-occupied Europe and the loss of life, though hard to comprehend, was ultimately not in vain. Those who made the supreme sacrifice did so for peace and justice.

The stories of bravery from the D-Day landings are many. Some of the soldiers were only teenagers and, yet, put the safety of their comrades first. One such story is that of Bob Gale DSM who was a one of the veterans in Project71.

Bob originally wanted to join the RAF as a pilot but was told he was not good enough and was sent for a medical at Aldershot to join the army. but he didn’t want to do all that “marching about stuff” so applied for the Navy. He was accepted and reported to Collingwood for training.

He ended up as a signalman on LCA 1010. He was only 22 years old when he landed on Gold Beach on D-Day in the first wave at Asnells. The Project71 team share the story that Bob often told of the moment he arrived on the beach:

“The whole place seemed to be covered in smoke and there was an awful lot of noise going off.”

“The German shells going over the top, British shells going over the top a little bit higher, there was aeroplanes going over as well.”

“I went up on the ramp to help the soldiers get off the boat and to tell them ‘Do not stay on the beach, stay on the beach and you’re dead so get off the beach as quick as possible’ and they ran like rabbits, they really did.”

“We needed to reverse off the beach and back through the defences, long poles with a large mine on the top. It’s not easy reversing a landing craft, in fact it was impossible to steer it. So, I went to the back of the boat and sat on the stern and pushed away the mines. Somebody said I was mad and could have got my head blown off, but the CO said no he wouldn’t, the whole boat would have blown up. But what could I do? Something had to be done.”

Bob was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions on that day………….

Sadly, there are few D-Day veterans still alive, as the years go by, but Project71 has four Veterans they support, who made 100 this year, plus one of 102 and one of 103. There are six that are turning 99 this year too and Saturday was one of the veterans Jean’s 99th Birthday!

Steven Shaw MA, FCILT, CMCIPD, Co-Founder of Project 71 said:

“At the weekend, we gathered to pay our respects, to remember, and to make a commitment for peace. We remember the bravery of people like Bob but also the unsung heroes whose bodies were never recovered and whose names are a distant memory. We remember those who have continued to fight for peace and justice and to challenge aggression, bullying, dictating, and discrimination.”

“There was much darkness on the landing-beaches of Normandy 79 years ago. But that darkness had been brought about by evil men who tried to dominate the world and snuff out any who were opposed to them. In the end, justice prevailed; truth was the order of the day; and those who paid the supreme sacrifice glimpsed the light of God.”

“We particularly remember today those Project71 veterans who have passed over the last year:

Fred Lee – Royal Navy – HMS Nith, Normandy Veteran
Percy Lewis – Buckinghamshire Regiment – Normandy Veteran
Arthur Bailey – 49th West Riding Infantry Division – Normandy Veteran
Joe Cattini – Royal Artillery- Normandy Veteran
Walter Quiney – RASC – Normandy Veteran
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.”

“Thank you to all the Project71 volunteers who did a magnificent job at the weekend, as usual.”

Please consider a small donation to help Project71 continue to support our heroes – You can do so through the GOFUNDME link. Thank you.

For more on Project 71 visit www.project71.co.uk or contact Steve Shaw on Tel: 07823 331011, or Email: [email protected]

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