4th June 2024

RBLIs’ sand installation of 80 Tommies commemorates the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

As early morning waves from the incoming tide gently washed over 80 Tommy silhouettes engraved in the sand, the sea removing all traces of their short existence, standing above the beach, three people watched, each lost in silent reverie as they thought of family members.


The sand installation of 80 Tommies was created at Stone Bay in Broadstairs by Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day. It was fashioned as a tribute to the troops who took part in the D-Day Landings, each silhouette a silent reminder of the sacrifice made 80 years ago by so many.


Pete Gower, a 72-year-old veteran, looked down from a vantage point, and thought of his father Arthur, who on D-Day, fought with the Sussex Regiment on Normandy’s bloody beaches.  Before Pete set out that morning, he placed a treasured memento in his pocket – his father’s berthing card for the landing craft. Just as his father had put it in his pocket 80 years ago as he set sail from England to Normandy, so too did Pete.


Pete Gower, a resident at RBLI’s veterans’ village in Aylesford, Kent, said, “Watching as the Tommies were washed away and listening to the Pipers, in my mind’s eye I could see the barbed wire scars my father had on his body that he got on 6 June 1944.  As a boy, I kept asking him to tell me how he got them and what he did in the war. For years he wouldn’t, but one day he said, ‘You’re in the Army now, I’ll tell you’.


“I’ll never forget his words as he told me about D-Day and how he acted as a human bridge for his mates. He said, ‘All you had to do was get on that beach and get off it to cover as quick as possible; it didn’t last that long, but it seemed like a lifetime. The guys couldn’t get over the barbed wire; they were just dropping as they were shot. All I did was throw myself across the barbed wire and they ran over me, but you could feel as bullets hit some of them’.”

Looking down at the 80 Tommy silhouettes, Pat Fawcett, a resident at RBLI’s village recalled the morning of 6 June 1994 as though it was yesterday, “I was only 12 of the time and all I remember about the D-Day Landings is hearing it announced on the wireless.


“Mum always made me and my sister Janet shoosh when the news was on. When the news reader spoke of the Normandy Landings, I remember her being very excited, and I asked, ‘What does it mean?’, and she said, ‘Well, it means the war is not going to end soon, but maybe after we get to Germany’.  As a child the news really wasn’t all that interesting, but I remember saying to my mum, ‘Does that mean daddy’s coming home?’ And she said no. I was only 12 at the time, but I’m so clear about D-Day, as I’ve told that story so many times.”


As the waves gently washed over the Tommies Darren Riley a veteran who served in the Light Infantry read On This Day, a poem he had crafted as his tribute, drawing on his experience of active service in Bosnia.


As Brenda Symes watched the waves lap over the figures in the sand she thought of her older brother Eddie, who served in North Africa and France with the Royal Signals.


Lisa Farmer, Chief Executive of RBLI, said, “As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, our sand installation of 80 Tommy silhouettes serves as a powerful reminder of the courage displayed by those who fought for our freedom.  It stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity, and the enduring legacy of those we owe so much to as they served in the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force.”

As RBLI is known as the home of the Tommy if you would like to buy a D-Day limited edition Tommy please visit https://rbli.shop/collections/d-day-80