Sunderland remembers D-Day heroes at special service on 75th anniversary
A war hero who helped lead the way for the continuing assault following D-Day was among veterans who gathered to mark 75 years since the campaign.
Servicemen and woman past and present joined families and city representatives at the war memorial in Burdon Road, Sunderland, for a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the military action, which saw allied forces push into German-occupied France.
They included 93-year-old Joseph Randle Oliver, known as Randle, who lives in Whitburn, and grew up in East Boldon.
He was a member of the RAF ground crew who helped clear the way for a Typhoon squadron following on from the assault on the beaches of Normandy, having signed up in 1943.
Today, Randle, who will celebrate his 94th birthday on Saturday, said: “It is lovely to be here and to have lived so long to see this day.”I do get upset, this brings it all back, but I’m pleased to see so many people here.”
Randle’s military training helped him become a success once he left the RAF in 1946, rising through the businessworld to become chairman of Fred Williamson’s painter and decorating firm in the city.
His brother Barrie, 91, who know also lives in Whitburn, signed up himself in 1946, serving with the legal aid in the RAF and spending two years in Germany “cleaning up” in the aftermath of the conflict as the peacetime rebuilding of Europe began.
He said: “I was working for Dickinson Dees in Newcastle at the time of D-Day and I remember at the time, the paper had a supplement about it and I could hear them shouting ‘D-Day has started’ out on the streets.
“I was about 16 at the time.
“The paper and the radio was the only way of getting hold of the news then and it was controlled by Churchill, so I think we only heard about the good stuff.
“Today is not emotional for me, but I do like to be around friends and I feel lucky to still be able to be part of it.”
A special mention was made of Charles Eagle during the service, following his death aged 94, earlier this year.
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The Sunderland businessman was just 19-years-old when he landed on Gold Beach as part of the D-Day landings.
Mayor of Sunderland David Snowdon, was accompanied by his consort, wife and fellow councillor Dianne, with the support for the military close to their hearts, as their son Barry Maskell, 25, is in the X Ray Company of 45 Commando Royal Marines.
said: “I feel honoured to be part of the commemoration of this great event 75 years ago.
“It is great to see friends turn out and it is also great to see members of our veterans’ community.”It is also important for the public to be able to come along and take part in the commemoration for all those who proudly served and gave their lives.”
They service featured standard bearers and a speech from the mayor before the sounding of the Last Post and a two minute silence at 11am.
Prayers were offered during the event by the Canon Reverend Stuart Bain and Reverend Nick Barr-Hamilton, the mayor’s chaplain, with wreaths laid, while Kevin Fury, of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards read a poem and Robbie Robson, from the Veterans’ Forum, lead the exhortation.