'It's crazy to think what D-Day veterans went through'

James Tinsley
James Tinsley has spent time with the Royal Engineers in Cyprus [BBC]

A young royal engineer has said it is important to remember the D-Day landings as the 80th anniversary approaches.

James Tinsley, 20, recently spent six months with the Royal Engineers in Cyprus, peacekeeping with the UN.

He attended a D-Day commemoration event at Stormont on Tuesday.

“It’s crazy to think what they went through," he said. "Even the D-Day landings in general – they were killed in their thousands.

“Peace is definitely important, it’s the most important thing that there is. The sacrifice they gave shouldn’t be forgotten. Everyone should learn about it.

“Loads of people travelled but only some came home. They should always be remembered for the sacrifice that they gave. Nobody knows apart from them what they went through."

Forge Integrated Primary School pupils
Pupils from Forge Integrated Primary School attended the event [BBC]

The commemoration was organised as part of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) campaign, which aims to build connections between veterans and young people.

The CWGC's Lighting Their Legacy campaign will see a torch transported around the UK before it arrives in Normandy on 6 June, the 80th anniversary.

During the event, veteran George Horner passed the beacon to pupils from Forge Integrated Primary School to symbolise the passing of the legacy of the D-Day landings to a new generation.

Mr Horner served with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Ulster Rifles, and landed on Sword Beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Horner said: “It’s very important young people remember - and that we remember the ones that we left behind who never made it.”

He attended the event with his daughter, Janet Reid.

She said her dad only started talking about his role 15 years ago.

“He kept it all to himself. I think a lot of the veterans are like that – they are very humble – but I’m really, really, proud of him, that men like him fought and we have our freedom today because of that.

“It was fantastic today, old and young together – that’s the way it should be.”

'Powerful imagery'

The commemoration was hosted by Assembly Speaker Edwin Poots and was attended by Deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly, who emphasised its significance.

“Passing the torch to school children – that is powerful imagery," she said.

"The passing on of those big lessons – the memory of what this was all about to the new generation so that they don’t forget and learn from the past, in terms of the role that they will play in the world moving forward."