Speaker’s Corner: My honour at meeting some genuine heroes

Mike Penning, Hemel Hempstead MP
Mike Penning, Hemel Hempstead MP

It has been incredibly moving to watch the commemoration events of the 70th anniversary of D Day.

It takes us back to a time which, frankly, most of us can hardly imagine.

It was a time when Britain stood alone against an enemy that had conquered nearly all of mainland Europe.

We cannot appreciate how frightening and isolating that must have been. For those living on the south coast the enemy was just 20 miles away.

However, on the morning of 6th June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy and at landing sites across northern France the tide finally started to turn and, with the help of our friends and allies, the future of Europe was changed forever.

With the passage of time and the outcome of the D Day landings written into the history books, it is easy to forget the daunting task facing those young men as they landed on those beaches.

Sadly many made the ultimate sacrifice but they all fought for the freedom which we enjoy and take for granted. We must never forget that.

Many Hemel Hempstead residents took part in those events – office workers, farm workers, all called up to do their duty.

It is a great honour for me to have met many of them through my association with the Royal British Legion and the Veterans Badge presentations. I have found their stories fascinating and inspiring.

The Royal British Legion is the country’s leading Armed Forces charity. It provides care and support to veterans of the British Armed Forces and their families. Every week the charity spends £1.6million on its welfare work.

The Legion is most widely visible during the annual Poppy Appeal and locally, they are always on the lookout for helpers and organisers. If you have some spare time and think you could help please contact the Royal British Legion’s Hertfordshire Community Fundraiser, Natasha Robertson on 01279 758220 or email nrobertson@british

D Day is a key event in Britain’s history and last weekend’s commemorations may well lead to local veterans and their families wishing to make visits to where they served.

The Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme has been providing grants towards travel and accommodation expenses to enable them, their spouse and carers to make trips back to places across the world where they served, or to make a commemorative visit in the UK.

If you are interested in this programme, further details can be found at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn or by calling the Heroes Return helpline 0845 0000 121.

Our next Veterans Badge presentation will be in September.

The Veterans Badge was introduced by the MoD to be worn on a day-to-day basis to recognise service in the forces. If you have served in the armed forces, in wartime or peacetime, you are entitled to a Veterans Badge.

Contact my office 01442 251126 for details.

Special badges are also available to those who served in the merchant navy during the war, Bevin Boys and the Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps.