Farmers to commemorate D-Day heroes on 80th anniversary

Farmers have been encouraged to pay tribute to those who farmed the fields during WWII to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944.

The D-Day landings in Normandy, France, formed the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare.

The statistics of D-Day, codenamed Operation Overlord, are “staggering”, said the Imperial War Museum.

The Allies used over 5,000 ships and landing craft to land more than 150,000 troops on five beaches in Normandy.  

The landings marked the start of a long and costly campaign in north-west Europe, which ultimately convinced the German high command that defeat was inevitable. 

To build up resources for the invasion, British factories increased production, and in the first half of 1944, approximately 9 million tonnes of supplies and equipment crossed the Atlantic from North America to Britain, the British Army explained.

Leaving farms behind

Many farmers gave up their homes to make way for secret rehearsals for World War Two’s D-Day. 

BBC News spoke to Meg Anderson, whose parents were given just weeks to leave their farm near Forres in 1943. 

She said: “Everything had to be sold, and they had to find somewhere else to live. There was sugar beet still in the fields that had to be harvested, and barley and oats that had to be thrashed and sold. 

“Everything had to be cleared in three weeks.” 

Ms Anderson told the media that they were helped by relatives and neighbours to sell 75 cattle and deal with their crops. 

The family then moved into a cottage a few miles away. They were able to return home six months later. 

Light beacons tonight

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, NFU is encouraging farms and country estates to light beacons throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man today at 9.15pm (6th June 2024).
“Let’s stand together in remembrance as we prepare to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.”

The beacons will be farmers’ personal tribute to those who still had to farm the fields – including the land girls – during the many dark days of the war, not knowing if their loved ones would ever return home, NFU says. 

The collective strength of a nation 

NFU president Tom Bradshaw added: “Let’s stand together in remembrance as we prepare to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. 

“This is a poignant initiative to honour both the fallen soldiers and resilient farmers of World War Two, who, in the face of unparalleled uncertainty, farmed the fields to ensure our nation was fed. 

“D-Day symbolises not just a military victory but also the collective strength of a nation. If you can, join the many people across the country in lighting a beacon in gratitude for their service.” 

NFU president Tom Bradshaw

How to get involved 

There are several types of beacons being used for this historic anniversary event. 

Farmers can take part and use their beacon lighting as a private occasion to celebrate with family, friends, farm and estate workers. 

They can also register their involvement via email at:  

Please include details on the site where the beacon will be lit and whether the lighting is a public or private event. Only public events will be listed. 

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