Federation Guard joins D-Day vets for anniversary
4 June 2014
Members of Australia’s Federation Guard have accompanied seven Australian World World II veterans to France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The seven former pilots and air crew have returned to France for the first time since the war to participate in the D-Day 70th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony on the beaches of Normandy, where thousands of American and British troops stores stormed ashore on June 6, 1944, to gain a foothold in Nazi-occupied Europe.
The veterans took the opportunity to share their incredible stories of air-to-air combat over Europe with members of Australia’s Federation Guard during pre-departure activities in Sydney.
The activities included an official farewell dinner and an intimate service at Sydney’s Hyde Park Anzac memorial, where the veterans, their escorts and a small contingent of Australia’s Federation Guard paid their respects to the fallen by throwing gold stars into the Well of Contemplation.
Australia’s Federation Guard Contingent Commander, Flight Lieutenant Mark Schmidt, believes the significance of this activity is not lost on the young Guardsmen and women who will take part in the commemorations in France.
“The Hyde Park ceremony and the dinner really set the tone for this trip. While every activity Australia’s Federation Guard undertakes is significant, this one has taken on a very personal tone, given that we have come to know the veterans travelling with us, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs people, who help make something like this possible,” he said.
“I liken this trip to a ‘grand final’ – many of our members join the Federation Guard in the hope of a trip like this and they practice, practice, practice to ensure they pay appropriate respect to both the occasion and to the veterans who, in this case, will be standing alongside them.”
Following the service on June 6, the veterans and Australia’s Federation Guard contingent will participate in two more ceremonies at Ellon Airfield and at Villers Bretonneux before undertaking a battlefield tour of several key sites around the region before returning to Australia.