GALLERY: D-Day ceremonies in France

CHAOTIC but memorable was how a war campaigner described the 70th anniversary ceremonies in France.

Neil Coppendale, of Church Green, Shoreham, headed to Arromanches, the Gold Beach landing zone on D-Day, for the official ceremony on Friday, June 5.

Prince William's wreath. Picture: Neil Coppendale from Shoreham

Prince William's wreath. Picture: Neil Coppendale from Shoreham

He said the day was memorable, although ‘utterly chaotic’, with many thousands of people descending on a village with a population of only 587.

“It was almost impossible to get any sort of view of the main ceremony, the sound quality was atrocious and there was only one screening of the ceremonies outside the village square.

“The authorities were never going to please everyone by a very long way, but it should have been much better organised. So, utterly chaotic, but truly memorable.”

His father, Arthur Coppendale, who worked in Shoreham from the 1950s to the 1970s, was a coxswain on a landing craft carrying tanks for Operation Avalanche at Salerno in 1943. His uncle, ‘Laddie’ Laundon, was a mid-upper gunner on a Stirling aircraft which was shot down over France at Christmas, 1942. He is buried in the Void Communal Cemetery in France.

“Remembering them is only one of the reasons I’m what some colleagues call a war obsessive,” explained Mr Coppendale.

He is also proud that Shoreham is among the place names on the original D-Day map, which is still in the Operations Room at Southwick House, near Portsmouth.

Mr Coppendale said: “D-Day was a miracle of organisation and timing.”

His campaign called for a national commemoration of D-Day at the time of the anniversary, as it was one of the last major anniversaries when veterans would be likely to be alive in some numbers. The anniversary of VE Day, he feels, is even more significant.