This D-Day Anniversary Will Be the Last for Normandy Veterans’ Association
As the number of World War II veterans continues to dwindle, the Normandy Veterans’ Association has decided to end operations later this year. Helping veterans attend this week’s 70th anniversary D-Day commemorations in France will be some of the association’s last work.
Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and for the Normandy Veterans’ Association, the anniversary coincides with its final year of operation.th
Given the dwindling number of members, local NVA branches from New Zealand to the United Kingdom have been announcing over the last several months that they will permanently shut their doors sometime this year.
“There are only the five of us now, and we have all talked about this and we agreed to disband [after the 70th anniversary],” Stan Douglas, convenor of the Hawke’s Bay branch of NVA in New Zealand, told Hawkes Bay Today. “It has to finish sometime.”th
The remaining members gathered on Thursday, in line with the branch’s tradition of meeting the Thursday closest to June 6, to mark the anniversary and to have their photos taken as part of a national photo archival effort.
Founded in Great Britain in April 1981 to promote connection between veterans and coordinate visits to Normandy, NVA had more than 100 branches in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, and France by the mid-1990s.
In April, the association helped members jump a last-minute logistical hurdle in their plans to return to Normandy this year. After French authorities requested that visitors apply for an official pass to gain entry to the Contentin Penninsula for the D-Day commemoration, NVA worked with the Royal British Legion and British Ministry of Defense to ensure all veterans who wanted to attend events in France would be able to do so, according to The Telegraph.
Hundreds of veterans, including NVA members, and a host of world leaders such as President Obama and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II are expected to travel to Normandy this week to help commemorate the anniversary of history’s largest sea-borne invasion.
“It’s nostalgic, you remember the boys you were with and the circumstances you were in,” Ken West, secretary of NVA’s Leicestershire branch, told the Leicester Mercury of the trip to Normandy. “It’s difficult to explain to those who weren’t there – the solidarity and the fact you’ve all been through it.”
Despite NVA’s closing its doors in November, some local branches may still meet informally, the association’s national secretary, George Batts, told The Telegraph.
“Members are dropping off the perch, and this is sad but inevitable,” Batts said. “Many of the ones we’ve got left are in nursing homes, and a lot are in their 90s. We haven’t done bad, and it is a miracle that public interest in the events themselves hasn’t dimmed.”
The scene during last year's Normandy D-Day celebration. (via the Normandy Veterans' Association website)