MP for North Swindon

Justin Tomlinson MP

Swindon Advertiser Column: The Courage & Humility Of Those Who Fought On D Day Should Be A Lesson To Us All


Yesterday marked the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history which saw allied forces land in Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

It was an operation on an unprecedented scale: 18,000 airborne soldiers, 7,000 naval vessels, 137,000 ground troops – not to mention the tireless work of the French resistance in the lead up to D-Day. Just five days later, 326,000 troops, 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had arrived on French land. Sadly, the scale of the casualties was just as large, with 10,000 allied casualties – including more than 4,500 personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The bravery of the young men who took part in D-Day is phenomenal. The scene that greeted them as they left the landing craft or landed behind enemy lines is unimaginable. I am in awe of the unwavering sense of duty they showed, which drove them on despite the overwhelming danger – as well as their humility in the years since. Their courage should be a lesson to us all.   

It is easy to take the security and stability we currently have for granted, which is why it is absolutely vital to mark historical milestones such as this, to make sure we always remember the sacrifices made by so many to protect our freedom.

It was wonderful to see the Queen, Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the heads of other countries join veterans in Portsmouth to pay their respects – a great reminder of the unity that exists between us all.

This afternoon I will be visiting the Royal British Legion pop-up centre in town to see a special exhibition which highlights the contribution to D-Day made by Swindon and surrounding area. From the US hospital in the grounds of Lydiard Park treating the wounded from D-Day, and the efforts of the Great Western Rail works to ensure troops and supplies travelled smoothly to the airfields which were established in the area – such as RAF Blakehill Farm near Cricklade.

Never has so much been sacrificed in order to guarantee our freedoms. We should never forget this and I hope that every future generation will continue to demonstrate our eternal gratitude.

Elsewhere I hosted the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge in Parliament, an initiative which aims to encourage children to read for fun. The Challenge celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and I have continued to champion it both locally and nationally.

The Challenge is designed to address the very important concern that during the summer holidays, children can lose gains made in their reading abilities by not reading anything over the break. Reading is hugely important in a child’s development, encouraging creativity as well as literacy skills, and I think it is important for children to remain engaged with reading over the summer holidays.

The initiative challenges children to visit the library and read six books over the summer, receiving rewards as they go.  Every year has a different theme, and this year the challenge is going intergalactic with a ‘space chase’ theme – very appropriate for us in Swindon as the home of the UK Space Agency!

Last year, in Swindon, 2,638 children took up the challenge. Hopefully this summer we will see even more!

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