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Normandy survivor Cyril joins RN-led service at Defence Academy Shrivenham

7 November 2023
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Ninety-eight-year-old naval Normandy veteran Cyril ‘Stan’ Ford was guest of honour as the RN led the annual service of prayer and remembrance at Shrivenham.

The Christian communities in the three Services take it in turns to organise the annual event, with the Senior Service taking the leading role in 2023.

Both the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Rev Andrew Hillier, and RM Corps Chaplain Rev Simon d’Albertanson took part in proceedings, the latter opening the service, underscoring the need for Defence personnel to be spiritually anchored in these increasingly turbulent times.

Music was provided by the Royal Marines Band, Defence Academy Military Wives Choir and award-winning gospel artist Monique McKen.

And speaking on the eve of 80th-anniversary commemoration of the D Day landings next year, Stan shared his first-hand experiences of the fighting off the Normandy coast in August 1944.

Stan was manning a gun platform on HMS Fratton – a small commercial vessel converted into a barrage balloon ship to provide cover for the invasion.

The battle for Normandy was almost over when Fratton was torpedoed on August 18. Stan was blown clean off the ship, before being rescued from the water. He suffered a fractured spine and injuries to both legs – he still wears leg callipers today, eight decades on. Reflecting on the losses sustained, Stan said, “I lost my shipmates, 31 of them… they are with me day and night.”

 
As a civilian, we sometimes forget the sacrifices made. So it’s very special to come to services like this and remember those who sacrificed their lives for us.

Monique McKen, BBC Gospel Artist of the Year 2021

The service also provided an opportunity for engagement with wider societies and cultures, with some readings in Fijian and Nepalese, and vocals from Monique McKen, BBC Gospel Artist of the Year 2021. “As a civilian, we sometimes forget the sacrifices made. So it’s very special to come to services like this and remember those who sacrificed their lives for us," she said.

For Defence Christians of all traditions, the service creates a vital space in which they can bring their faith and service together.

One of many naval personnel present was Lt Lee Wilcock. Reflecting on his service, Lee said, “Having God as my anchor has enabled me to live this life. My faith gives me a compass and a sense of peace when life is difficult.”

The Defence Christian Network (DCN) is a unified, multi-denominational Christian network for military personnel and MOD Civil Servants with the goal of connecting, supporting and inspiring Christians across Defence, making a Christian contribution to diversity and inclusion, wellbeing of civilian and Service personnel, and supporting the MODs engagement with Christians in wider society.’

For further information, please contact: [email protected]

 

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