Sunday, 21 July 2019

Ex-serviceman lays wreath to mark D-Day anniversary

Ex-serviceman lays wreath to mark D-Day anniversary

A FORMER serviceman laid a poppy wreath at the war memorial in Wargrave when the village marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, writes James Burton.

John Fryer, 94, of the Walled Garden, Wargrave, is believed to be the only living resident who served during the Second World War.

About 50 villagers attended the ceremony by the monument in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Station Road, where a wreath was also laid by Tony Elliott, president of the village’s Royal British Legion branch.

Rev John Cook, the vicar of St Mary’s, led prayers for all those killed or injured in the D-Day operation and David Smith, chairman of the Legion branch, read the exhortation of remembrance from Robert Binyon’s poem For The Fallen.

The vicar read Psalm 62, in which King David speaks of God as “my rock and my salvation”.

He told the congregation: “I love that passage because it brings back to all of us where true stability can be found. At times we all feel like the ‘tottering fence’ mentioned in the psalm and I suppose those fighting on the beaches must have felt terribly weak and fragile, like a fence wobbling in the wind.

“The enemy they faced were arrogant, deceptive and numerous — a colossal enemy to meet indeed — but the psalmist says he poured out his heart to the Lord and gained perspective.

“I love how it ends, saying ‘you, O God, are strong and you are loving’. When the world does its worst, we hold on to that as our hope.”

Mr Fryer joined the army in 1943 when he was 18 having initially enrolled on a government training programme as an engineer. He then completed officer training and became a lieutenant training troops around Britain.

When the conflict ended, he served for several more years overseeing camps for German prisoners of war across Europe.

Mr Fryer said: “It is very important that we celebrate the anniversary and I have left my television recording coverage of the national celebrations in order to attend this service.

“The turnout is pretty good and I’m pleased that people supported it. Not everyone takes as keen an interest as others but I imagine many people are watching the coverage at home.”

Mr Elliott said: “This means so much for two reasons. Firstly, I was a young lad in the East End during the Blitz and I knew people who were killed, including a schoolmate, and I’ve never forgotten that.

“Secondly, years later I was stationed in Singapore and Malaysia as a member of the Royal Air Force and, again, I knew people who were killed. An occasion like this really brings their loss home and you just want to say, ‘thank you’.

“I’m pleased that my grandchildren are now learning about this in school because it’s only by remembering it that we can hopefully prevent something similar from happening again. This event is not solely about the past but very much the future as well.”

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