At 5:30pm on Saturday 6th June, members of the local community took part in a special annual service commemorating the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944.
Before the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) took over the Harwell site in 1946, it had been an airfield for the previous nine years, known as RAF Harwell. During World War II, six Horsa gliders towed by Halifax bombers carrying the Coup de Main party consisting of four platoons from D Company and two platoons from B Company 2nd Bn Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry under the command of Major John Howard, took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton in Dorset, these were the first to land in Normandy at 0016hrs 6 June by what is now Pegasus and Horsa Bridges at Benouville.
The gliders, that took off from RAF Harwell were the second wave containing the rest of 2nd Bn Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who landed at Ranville later on D-Day after the seaborne landings had commenced.
This historic event is now known as the D-Day landings and every year war veterans and members of the local community gather at the Memorial Stone (pictured above) to remember those who took off from the RAF Harwell airstrip, which is now half covered up by Diamond.
In attendance were local units of the Royal British Legion, the Air Army Corps, Air Training Cadets and RAF Associations, to name but a few. In attendance every year are members of the Guinea Pig Club, a charity formed during the Second World War by airmen who were undergoing pioneering plastic surgery medical treatment for burns sustained in battle. In previous years the Guinea Pigs have visited Diamond ahead of the ceremony and this year Physical Sciences Director Prof. Trevor Rayment (pictured right with Guinea Pig Club member Jack Perry) met them at the Royal British Legion in Harwell to update them on the latest news from Diamond.
During the service wreaths were laid at the Memorial Stone (pictured below) by representatives of each group in attendance, together with single stem poppies laid by children from the nearby Chilton Primary School. Each year, one of Diamond's directors attends the ceremony and lays down a wreath in rememberance. In position since July 2008, this year was the first opportunity for Prof. Trevor Rayment to take part and he laid a wreath on behalf of Diamond.
"I was honoured to take part in this historical ceremony along with my colleagues from the many other science and business facilities on the Harwell site. It was a pleasure to meet members of the Guinea Pig Club earlier in the day and update them on Diamond's progress. They provide a living link to Harwell's history."
Prof. Trevor Rayment, Physical Sciences Director, Diamond Light Source
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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