Suffolk vicar leads ‘poignant’ D-Day anniversary services

A Suffolk vicar who has led services to honour the fallen in Normandy for more than a decade says this year’s commemoration marking 80 years since D-Day will be even more poignant.  The Revd Mandy Reynolds, Team Vicar in the Wilford Peninsula Benefice in Suffolk, joined the military as an army chaplain in 2004 and has led services in France every June since 2011.

Mandy, whose father was a D-Day veteran, says it has been an “honour and a privilege” to have been part of remembering the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom, and those who helped rebuild the country on their return. “We go out there to remember the fallen, we go out to the cemeteries and we remember those who are lying at rest,” she said. 

“As Rupert Brooke said, there’s always some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England. But it is not just the fallen we honour, it is the brave men like the veterans I have met over the years who did what they did, saw what they saw, and then returned to life in the UK to build families. The scars that many of them must have carried with them through life is extraordinary. That’s why it has been such a privilege to mark the day with them.”

Mandy said this year’s memorial service will be all the more important, as it may be the last anniversary she gets to commemorate with those who were there. “It will be even more poignant this year,” she said. “When I first started doing services in 2011 there would be coach loads of old boys, with hundreds of veterans attending. I think when we go out this year we were planning to take eight veterans with us and this may be the last time we have the chance to mark D-Day with those who experienced it. For the 90th there will be no more second world war veterans left, but we have to continue remembering them.”

Mandy, who now lives in Rendlesham, said her experiences in Normandy have enriched her role in her parish in Suffolk. “Developing a thriving church community in my parish feels like a legacy the veterans would be proud of,” she said. After joining the army, Mandy served tours in Germany and the UK and experienced time on Operations. Further postings included Deepcut in Surrey, where she met the Surrey Branch of the Normandy veterans Association.

“I happened to say my dad had been a Normandy veteran and had landed at Sword Beach,” she said. “They asked if I would like to go out to Normandy with them, and I said ‘yes please’. While I was out there they said while you here, you can do our service for us. I took part in one service – that was in 2011 – and I’ve been doing them ever since.”

Mandy became the Normandy Veterans Association’s national chaplain in 2014, leading services for the 70th anniversary. When the association later disbanded, she was taken on by the Spirit of Normandy Trust as their official chaplain. As part of the army, “Padre” Mandy said she felt it was important to experience what her frontline colleagues were facing.

She said: “I did a six-month tour of duty on operations which was important as unless we, as chaplains, know what the soldiers are going through, we can’t talk to them or understand how they feel. It makes it even more poignant knowing a little about what they experienced, and a part of what the soldiers at D-Day experienced. I can remember the year I left the army and took a service at Bayeux. Speaking to them during the service I was privileged to tell them that as a veteran myself, I now walk in the footsteps of giants. We owe them everything we now so often take for granted.”

The Church of England in Suffolk has chaplains serving a number of sectors in its communities including police, air cadets, hospitals, hospices, schools, deaf chaplaincy, prison, the RAF, the British Legion, army, agriculture and Felixstowe port.

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Page last updated: Wednesday 5th June 2024 11:14 AM
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