Pompey Plodders pay respects in France on D-Day anniversary

Recreating the route of Lord Lovat’s march from Sword Beach to Pegasus Bridge, a group of 13 Pompey Plodders headed to France for 6 June to pay their respects to fellow military men on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The Pompey Plodders are a group of former TA soldiers who regularly get together for a variety of walks followed by a beer.

Organiser Bob Ball said: “The first part of the journey took us along Sword beach, effectively a boardwalk, where there are a number of memorials on and just off the beach. Even at 7:30, there were people beginning to assemble ready for the day’s D-Day anniversary events. On arrival at the Piper Millin Statue, the real start point of Lord Lovat’s march, a pipe band was already playing at full throttle signalling the imminent arrival of dignitaries and invited guests.

“Our journey followed the route taken by the 1st Special Service Brigade whose objectives amongst others was to reinforce part of the 6th Airborne who had, through the early hours of D-Day, so successfully and famously captured the bridges over the Caen Canal and the River Orme.

We passed the the Statue of Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery, but the most moving part of the trip was at the British Military Cemetery in Ranville where we joined a short service around the grave of the youngest airborne soldier Robert (Bobby) Johns.

“Bobby was a Portsmouth lad and had joined the army at 14 and at the age of 16 was known to be the youngest airborne soldier to have jumped into Normandy on D-Day. He was subsequently shot dead by a sniper on 23 July 1944 defending Le Mesnil crossroads against enemy counter attack.

“The service was poignant. Ken Newton, Chairman of the Pompey Paras, laid a wreath and several personal RBL crosses were also laid. We then went to the church to see the special area set aside in memory of the British Airborne Forces and also visited the grave of Den Brotheridge the first man killed on D-Day.

“Ranville was the first village in France to be liberated and it’s clear by the way all the memorials are so well maintained that the local population still respect the memory of the D-Day sacrifice.

Some of us were also privileged to see the arrival of Colin and David Richardson who had valiantly canoed the route from Portsmouth to Pegasus Bridge in 33 hours and 2 minutes. The two minutes was actually quite a coincidence because Lord Lovat reputedly apologised to Maj. Howard who had taken the bridges that he was two minutes late arriving to relieve them. Colin and David had planned to be at Pegasus Bridge at 12:00 but arrived at 12:02, effectively emulating Lord Lovat.

Colin and David
Colin and David rowing to Pegasus Bridge, with MV Boudicca in the background.

“The trip was one to remember on such a historic occasion and it was an honour to be able to pay our respects to those who gave so much.”


-Sword beach
-Piper Millin statue
-South along Avenue de Bruxelles and onto Rue de la Mer passing the Statue of Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery on the left.
-Left onto a narrow footpath over the stream known as Rouisseau de la Rosiére and follow through beautiful meadow and woodland to Colleville-Montgomery
-Pick up a woodland track, known fittingly as Chemin des Pélerins or Way of the Pilgrims.
-In around a kilometre turn south for another kilometre to Saint-Aubin-d’Arquenay.
-Pegasus Bridge

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