Lest we forget: A tribute to the D-Day heroes of the Durham Light Infantry

An artist has penned a poignant tribute to the South Tyneside veterans who ran into the face of enemy fire on D-Day.

By Chris Cordner
Tuesday, 04 June, 2019, 08:20
Bayeux war cemetery which commemorates more than 4,600 people who gave their lives, mostly during the invasion of Normandy.

The heroics of the soldiers of the Durham Light Infantry have been remembered by Innes Marlow in an evocative piece called Arromanches.

It describes D-Day through the eyes of a veteran returning to France and remembering what had happened decades earlier.

And it describes how each year, dwindling numbers of veterans were left to remember what had happened on that infamous day.

Innes told the Shields Gazette he’d written it after an emotional visit to the beaches of Normandy, and to a nearby museum.

“The most sobering time was going to the Pegasus Bridge Museum where they have machine guns.

“They fire 600 rounds a minute and have a range of four kilometres. If you were on the beach knowing this as you came up the beach, it shows the bravery of these men.”

Innes Marlow has paid a moving tribute to the men of the DLI who fought and fell in battle in France.

Innes’ latest work comes after a number of pieces he had penned on the First World War.

“I did a lot of work on the First World War and it got me thinking about D-Day and the central beaches,” he said. “I went to Normandy and I was spurred by the aura around the beaches.”

The town of Arromanches is on the Normandy coast in the section codenamed Gold during the allied liberation of Normandy in 1944.

Three Battalions of Durham Light Infantry landed on the beaches there 75 years ago on June 6 – the operation proved to be a turning point in the war.

Arromanches is the latest work of Innes who has previously exhibited images from the battlefields and War cemeteries, and designed the 2018 First World War memorial in his home town of Fareham.

Innes shared the work with the Mail as he hopes it will encourage veterans will come forward to share their memories, and help preserve memories of a day in history.

Any veterans – or relatives of anyone who served in the DLI – can contact chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk.

Arromanches by Innes Marlow

Near Arromanches, William walks,

along the front where locals talk

and nod to him, some, hand-on-heart,

for they recognise the vital part

he played in their history here,

when France held in the grip of fear

watched hope blow out on the breeze,

until strangers came from overseas.

Many young men from other worlds,

proud pipers leading, flags unfurled,

spilling life on Norman sand

in shrapnel rain that burned the land.

And though many Junes have passed since then

William can still remember when

as young Bill, he ran across that sand.

Heart in mouth, gun in hand,

but this will be his last visit here.

It takes him back, the noise, the fear.For this was no heroic story

of warriors bronzed with swords and glory,

this was a tale of ordinary men

who heard the bugle sound again

and left their families and shore

to change the course of brutal war,

by taking bridges, streets and land.

But those that made it to the sand

were just relieved to escape the swell,

where many friends and brothers fell

in the seas that washed this beach of gold,

as foaming horses crashed and rolled

with a horror of their very own,

for seeds of death at dawn were sown

as men were lost between the waves.

No sweet final words at graves.

Their bodies washed up on the shore,

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while scattered south a thousand more.

As Bill walks, he’s right back there,

down the ramp, running, scared.

The stinging bullets flick the tide,

brothers dying either side.

He hunted shelter on the beach,

machine guns wildly howled and screeched,

ripping through the sand and men.

Bill ran for life and dived again,

looked around, caught his breath,

the flaming barrels spitting death

across the shell holes gaping wide,

mortars crashing by his side.

Then closer to the town he crept

as the flaming pill box grimly swept

across the beach of men and tanks.

No mercy for family men or ranks

The strangers from afar moved on.

They paid with lives, but the beach was won.

Suddenly, a lady in her golden years

grips William’s hand, her eyes with tears.

It snaps him straight back here today.

She thanks him kindly, moves away.

Leaves him standing, looking west

medals shining, jacket pressed.

This is his final chance to see

the lads he left in Normandy.

And those who have made it here

to commemorate this poignant year

of comrades lost, hear stories told

of young men by the blessed and old.

Those heroic back in their prime

realise their enemy now is time.

A dangerous but a gentler foe,

it dims Bill’s sight, he shuffles slow

as he says farewell, sheds final tears

to brothers lost, and all those years

just fade away in his last goodbye,

gently said beneath charcoal sky

and just as he did back on that day,

when Overlord swept through the bay,

William takes the beach again

and pays respect to all those men

with a last salute, firm of hand.

The silent wind whips up the sand

and on this shore in this special year

the waves roll back, his friends are near,

and even now with so many gone,

in Arromanches their deeds live on.