The Normandy veterans’ charity D-Day Revisited has launched a crowdfunding page for a commemorative garden installation on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea at the 2019 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show to mark the 75th anniversary of the 6th June 1944 D-Day Landings, the largest seaborne invasion in world history.
The D-Day 75 Garden will provide a fitting platform for the public to celebrate and show their gratitude to the veteran generation and create a lasting tribute to the valiant actions these men and women undertook in 1944.
With the surviving veterans approaching 100 years of age, the 75th anniversary will also be the charity’s final year in action and it is therefore the dearest wish of the surviving veterans that the garden will be relocated to the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer in France as a permanent installation, after the show.
97-year-old veteran Bill Pendell MM from Oxfordshire is the model for the D-Day 75 Garden. Bill, who thinks of himself as an ordinary man and wonders why people “make such a fuss” of him, landed on Gold beach during D-Day as a 22-year-old Despatch Rider in the Royal Signals, 11th Armoured Division. He was awarded the Military Medal in June 1945 for bravery in combat and in 2016 received the Légion d’Honneur, which is the highest French order of merit.
The D-Day 75 Garden is designed by multi RHS gold medal winner John Everiss from Lancashire. John’s family have strong ties with the Royal British Legion and his moving 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden ‘The Evader’ was dedicated to his late father, an RAF navigator during the Second World War who survived being shot down over occupied France.
John has designed two life-size sculptures of Bill which will bookmark the entrance to the garden. The first hand carved stone sculpture is by Thomas Dagnall. Sitting on a stone plinth, Bill is proudly wearing his medals and beret. He is looking across at the second sculpture; a fragile metal figure of himself as a 22-year-old, pausing before rushing out of the water and up the beachhead. The metal sculpture is by John Everiss.
In this moment the 75 years which separates one man from another is bridged and spectators are invited to consider how it must feel for veterans to reflect on the intense experiences they endured on D-Day and the days that followed.
Beyond veteran Bill, a further 15 stone plinths stretch out towards the Royal Hospital Chelsea, each bearing a word or sentence that captures the D-Day experiences of 15 veterans. The plinths will be surrounded by a carpet of over 10,000 Armeria Maritima or ’Sea Thrift’ which would have been seen by the troops as they embarked at Portsmouth and again as they pushed inland off the Normandy beaches.
Behind young Bill, four waves break on the beach, each progressively taller than the last. Four similarly fragile metallic figures struggle out of the water, desperately trying to avoid hidden obstacles or shell holes.
The moving and thought provoking D-Day 75 Garden aims to strike a fine balance between paying respectful tribute to the men and women who lost their lives, as well as celebrating the immense achievement of the Allied operation which liberated millions of people across Europe.
Victoria Phipps, D-Day Revisited, says:“Next year’s anniversary will be the final opportunity for the public to come together and commemorate D-Day alongside a significant number of men and women who experienced it first hand.
What’s exciting about the D-Day 75 Garden is that it aims to celebrate our living veterans, as well as respectfully remembering those they left behind in Normandy. We hope it will create plenty of opportunities for our WWII generation to share their incredible stories from that pivotal time.”
John Everiss, designer of the D-Day 75 Garden, says:“The D-Day 75 Garden celebrates the veterans, many of whom are already looking forward to attending the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where they’ll have the opportunity to exchange stories with the Chelsea Pensioners and talk with visitors. We hope the veterans’ wish to gift this 75th anniversary garden to the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer can be fulfilled. There it may continue to inspire future generations; giving visitors a sense of the enormous challenge faced by the Allied troops.”
Backed by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the D-Day 75 Garden is also fully supported by the families of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and General Dwight D ‘Ike’ Eisenhower who played such leading roles in the Normandy Campaign.
Please support the D-Day 75 Garden on social media using the hashtag #dday75garden
To find out more about D-Day Revisited, see: https://d-dayrevisited.co.uk
To support the D-Day 75 Garden, see: https://www.gofundme.com/dday-75-garden