Category Archives: war

Abingdon Royal British Legion Honours D-Day Hero with Bar Renaming

The Abingdon Royal British Legion held a ceremony to rename its bar after Lieutenant Raymond Charles Belcher, a local hero and one of the casualties of the D-Day landings.

Belcher, a 20-year-old airman from Abingdon, was the officer in charge of a harbour landing party. His plane was hit by flak after reaching the Normandy coast in the early hours of June 6, killing all on board.

The Legion’s initiative coincides with a series of events organized by the Spring Road social club to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The club will also host an afternoon cream tea for veterans on June 8.

Lieutenant Belcher, known affectionately as “Bunny” to his parents who lived in Vineyard, Abingdon, had been married for only six months to his wife Kay, an ATS corporal who was expecting a baby.

Local military historian and author Stephen King played a key role in uncovering Belcher’s story.

King collaborated with Clare Oldfield, Abingdon’s Poppy Appeal Organiser. ‘Bunny was a young man with his hopes and aspirations ahead of him’, said King, ‘but sadly that was not to be, indeed he may have been one of the very first D-Day casualties.’

The “Ray ‘Bunny’ Belcher” bar was unveiled during a visit from members of the D-Day Normandy Federation. To further honour Lieutenant Belcher’s memory, Loose Cannon Brewery renamed one of their beers ‘Abingdon Pathfinder,’ and patrons raised a toast to the fallen hero.

‘We are proud to be naming the bar after Bunny,’ said Mrs. Oldfield. ‘The sacrifices made, from the first to the last casualty, deserve to be honoured and remembered.’

Thanks to Brighton College for the picture of Lieutenant Belcher.

Pictures of Kharkiv in Abingdon Library

On February 20th, 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian War began as Russia pushed into the Crimean Peninsula. On February 24th, 2022, the conflict escalated with Russia launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

At Abingdon Library, a collection of photos by the Oxford Kharkiv Association shows Ukraine’s enduring struggle, particularly in Kharkiv. The images chronicle Kharkiv’s transformation, from peace to war with destruction and rebuilding.

The Oxford Kharkiv Association are a group of volunteers who look to strengthen the links between Oxfordshire and the Kharkiv region.

Abingdon Remembers

The annual Remembrance Day service and parade took place in light rain, drawing a large crowd of residents to the war memorial.

At 10:00 am, the service commenced at St. Helen’s Church, led by Rev. Dr. Charles Miller and assisted by Deacon Selina Nisbett, the Mayor’s Chaplain. Rev. Millar said the two-minute silence unites the nation like nothing else. He spoke of remembering and grief, and the Christian hope in the resurrection.

Following the service, a procession formed outside the church, led by drummer John Shaw and standard bearers. Various uniformed groups, including representatives of the armed forces, cadet forces, and local organisations, marched alongside Mayor Gwyneth Lewis and Councillors. Despite the absence of soldiers from Dalton Barracks, who were engaged in operations, there was a large procession at the war memorial.

The Abbey Brass Band were there to play music and sound the last post.

The remembrance service at the war memorial was a simple yet moving affair, featuring prayers, the exhortation, “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old…”, and a two-minute silence.

After the silence, the rain intensified as representatives from various organizations and individuals placed wreaths on the war memorial.

The uniformed groups marched in a parade past the Mayor and Councillors at the County Hall. The parade was followed by most of the crowd, who dispersed around the town.

Others remained to reflect at the war memorial, admiring the wreaths and their messages of remembrance.

Among the wreaths, two particularly stood out – handcrafted by the Abingdon Kindergarten and the Duchess Nursey School, Abingdon. The poppies, were made from colourful hands.

Armistice Day

The pupils at Kingfisher School have created a fabulous display for the Royal British Legion Club in Spring Road, Abingdon. (Thanks to Clare for the pictures.)

Most people will remember that Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. Saturday is Armistice Day, and there will be a smaller gathering at the war memorial at 11 pm for a two-minute silence.

World War I officially ended on November 11, 1918, at 11:00 AM, after the signing of the armistice a few hours earlier. From 1919 to 1939, Armistice Day was the main day of remembrance in the UK for those who died in the war. After World War II, the main observance in the United Kingdom moved to Remembrance Sunday, which is held on the second Sunday in November.

In the 1990s(1), Armistice Day was revived after a campaign by the Royal British Legion, and since then a two-minute silence has been observed at 11:00 AM on November 11.

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