London bobbies plod France for D-Day vets

10th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

CREPON, France, June 10 (AFP) - Eight London policemen, sweltering in heavy World War II uniforms and weighed down by vintage weapons, slogged through the French countryside this week to raise money for British war veterans who fought in the bitter 1944 Normanday campaign.

CREPON, France, June 10 (AFP) - Eight London policemen, sweltering in heavy World War II uniforms and weighed down by vintage weapons, slogged through the French countryside this week to raise money for British war veterans who fought in the bitter 1944 Normanday campaign.

"My grandfather was a soldier in the war, we are doing this to say thank you to the war veterans", said Peter Boldrini, the organiser of the "60 Miles for the 60th Anniversary" project.

A ninth man, an archaeologist, was also on the walk - a 100-kilometre circuit starting on the D-Day landing beaches. One marcher wore a London bobby's uniform, four of the others were kitted out as infantrymen or Royal Artillery soldiers.

"We are wearing the same shoes the soldiers wore during the war, they are very hard and heavy, and so is the machine gun, which weighs 16 kilograms (35 pounds) and the rifle, which weighs nine kilos (20 pounds)," explained Boldrini.

The men average about 20 kilometres a day under a scorching sun which has shone brightly this year every day since June 6, the anniversary of the landings. The uniforms are stifling and the soaring temperatures make every step more difficult than the last.

"It's a very personal experience for me," said another marcher, Martin Smith. "We are the grand-children of the ones who landed here."

In the village of Crepon, the policemen paused for lunch near the monument to the 6th and 7th battalions of the Green Howards regiment and to Major Stanley Hollis, who won the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day, for his courage in the fierce fighting there.

Locals, British and even German tourists gathered round to welcome them. "It's a beautiful experience. People are friendly, everywhere we go people are very kind to us", Boldrini said as a convoy of reconditioned World War II military vehicles passed by, their drivers casting envious glances at his uniform.

"We aim to raise funds to help people, who 60 years ago made tremendous sacrifices and endured a bitter campaign, so that we are able to live in the manner we do today," Boldrini went on.

"We hope that people will give generously in order to say 'thank you' from younger generations."

Funds raised this week will go to the Royal British Legion and the Normandy Veterans association.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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