Durham Normandy veterans association disbands

Members of Durham Normandy Veterans Association l-r Ed Murray, Jim Deacon, George Brown, Tom Robson, Wilf Coates The veterans dipped the "precious" standard before relinquishing it to the mayor's custodianship

The standard of the Durham Normandy Veterans Association was dipped once, in a final salute to those "no longer with us".

Then five men, ranging in age from 86 to 89, officially handed it over to Great Aycliffe Mayor Val Raw for "safekeeping".

Facing declining numbers and increasing frailty, this group of men who fought for their country during World War II has disbanded.

Wilf Coates, 87, was a pathfinder, one of the first in on D-Day in June 1944, reconnoitring and marking out the landing zone for the rest.

Start Quote

I only went to Normandy to complain about the noise”

End Quote Ed Murray Normandy veteran

"It's sad that we're having to break up," he said. "Lack of members, people dying off. It won't get any better.

"There'll be no Normandy veterans left in time to come."

Ed Murray, 86, is dying of cancer but was determined to take part in the ceremony - and not in his wheelchair.

"I only went to Normandy to complain about the noise," he joked. "I couldn't get back."

'Treasured possession'

Formed in 1982 the Durham branch of the association - the twelfth - had made pilgrimages to northern France and regularly attended Remembrance Sunday events.

Soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Corps stand sentry on a beach of Normandy in northern France during the June 1944 operations, after D-Day. Photo: AFP/Getty Images The group was founded in 1982 for veterans of the Normandy landings from Durham

Michael Dalton, whose father was in Normandy, said men now in their eighties and nineties were finding it difficult just to attend the association's monthly meetings.

He said some were frail and in ill health and the group felt it was "the right time to call it a day".

Mayor Val Raw promised the standard would be one of the town's "most treasured possessions".

"I know it is given with great pride and it is with great pride that we receive it," she said. "It will be treasured here."

The standard will be put on display in the council chamber at Great Aycliffe Town Council offices.

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