Normandy Veterans’ Charity launch appeal for Chelsea garden

A Normandy Veterans’ Charity ‘D-Day Revisited‘ has launched the first phase of a crowdfunding page for a commemorative garden installation on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea during the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to mark the 75th anniversary of the 6th June 1944.

That day saw the largest seaborne invasion in world history and it is hoped that the ‘D-Day 75‘ garden, to be designed by John Everiss, will provide a fitting platform for the public to show their gratitude to the veteran generation and create a lasting tribute to the valiant actions these men and women undertook in 1944.

Stage one of the crowdfunding is for £25,000 to secure an order for plants – 10,000 ‘Sea Thrift’ plants will be used on the garden – intrinsic to the design. Just £5 will pay for two of these coastal plants which John will use to create a carpet around plinths in the design. Armeria Maritima (Sea Thrift) would have been seen by the troops as they embarked on the south coast of England and again as they pushed inland off the Normandy beaches.

With surviving veterans approaching 100 years of age, the 75th anniversary will also be the charity’s final year in action and it is the dearest wish of the surviving veterans that the garden be relocated to the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer in France as a permanent installation, after the show.

The garden’s designer, John Everiss, (pictured left) is a multi RHS gold medal winner. His moving 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden ‘The Evader‘ was dedicated to his late father, an RAF navigator, during the Second World War.

Two life sized sculptures will bookmark the entrance to the garden. These have been based on Bill Pendell MM, a 97-year-old veteran from Oxfordshire, who thinks himself as an ordinary man and wonders why people “make such a fuss” of him. He landed on Gold beach during D-Day as a 22-year old despatch rider in the Royal Signals, 11th Armoured Division. He was awarded the Military Medal in June 1945 for bravery in combat and in 2016 received the Legion d’Honneur, which is the highest French Order of Merit.

One figure is carved in stone by sculptor Thomas Dagnall, depicting Bill sitting on a stone plinth, wearing his medals and beret. He is looking across to a second sculpture, this a fragile metal figure of himself as a 22-year-old, pausing before rushing out of the water and up the beachhead. This second sculpture is by John Everiss.

Beyond veteran Bill, there will be a further 15 stone plinths stretching out towards the Royal Hospital Chelsea, each bearing a word or sentence that captures the D-Day experiences of 15 veterans. The garden will also encompass waves breaking on the beach, with four similarly fragile metallic figures struggling out of the water.

John explains that the garden aims to strike a fine balance between paying respectful tribute to the men and women who lost their lives as well as celebrating the immense achievement of the Allied operation which liberated millions of people across Europe.

The charity, D-Day Revisited, is based in the North-West and was established as a family charity in 2008 by father and daughter John and Victoria Phipps. The primary objective is to fund and organise pilgrimages for veterans of the Normandy campaign wishing to return to France to commemorate the anniversary of the landings. Each year, the charity has taken a group of around 100 veterans, companions and support volunteers back to Normandy each year.

Victoria points out that next year’s (2019) anniversary will be the final opportunity for the public to come together and commemorate D-Day alongside a significant number of men and women who experienced it first hand: “What’s exciting about the D-Day 75 Garden is that it aims to celebrate our living veterans, as well as respectfully remembering those left behind in Normandy,” says Victoria. “We hope it will create plenty of opportunities for our WW11 generation to share their incredible stories from that pivotal time.”

Designer, John Everiss, explains that the garden celebrates the veterans, many of whom are already looking forward to attending the RHS Chelsea Flower Show where they’ll have the opportunity to exchange stories with the Chelsea Pensioners and talk with visitors: “We hope the veterans’ wish to gift this 75th anniversary garden to the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-Sur-Mer can be fulfilled,” added John. To this end, the charity hope to get confirmation from the Normandy Memorial Trust for this to happen.

The project is backed by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and supported by the families of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and General Dwight D ‘Ike’ Eisenhower, who played such leading roles in the Normandy Campaign. The garden will not be judged.

The total amount the charity hope to raise, in stages, is £290,000 which will also include one move to the British Normandy Memorial, if they get approval, as a permanent installation.

To find out more about D-Day Revisited please see https://d-dayrevisited.co.uk

To support the D-Day 75 Garden please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/dday-75-garden

Picture credits: Photograph of John Everiss ©Reckless Gardener, all others © D-Day Revisited Charity.

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