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Peter Ricketts, the former British ambassador to France, has been appointed to the Chairmanship of The Normandy Memorial Trust. At a meeting of trustees in London on 28th March, Lord Ricketts said he was delighted to take on the leadership of what he called this "exciting project".

He paid tribute to the "drive and vision" of Normandy Veteran George Batts, the originator of the plan for the Memorial, who now moves from a place on the board of trustees to the role of "Patron".

Lord Ricketts brings to the trust his years of experience of dealing at the highest levels with governments in both Britain and France. He was the UK's ambassador in Paris from 2012 to 2016. Before that he was Britain's National Security Adviser (2010-2012) and prior to that he was the Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2006-2010).

Three other new trustees were elected to the board: Lord Robin Janvrin, the former Private Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen; General Sir Peter Wall, the former head of the British army and strategic communications specialist, David McDonough.

They join founding trustee Nicholas Witchell and the Curator of the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, Andrew Whitmarsh.

Lord Ricketts told trustees that they now had the task of delivering a memorial to "a very high standard on a very tight timescale."

On the ground, survey work is underway at both the shortlisted sites, in Colleville- Montgomery and Ver-sur-Mer: contact is continuing with local officials and landowners while the trust's architect and lead consultant, Liam O'Connor, is working on designs for the Memorial.

D Day Veteran George Batts was an 18 year old Sapper when he landed on Gold Beach on the morning of D Day itself. Tasked with clearing mines and booby traps he survived the horrors of the beaches while many of his friends and comrades tragically died.

George who eventually became the National Secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association has long held an ambition that a defining monument should be built on a single site in France to commemorate the men and women of the British Armed forces and civilian services who lost their lives in the Normandy Campaign.

D Day veteran George Batts returns to 'Gold Beach' in Normandy

D Day veteran George Batts returns
to 'Gold Beach' in Normandy

The Normandy Memorial Trust, harnessing George’s remarkable tenacity and long held passion, has secured a commitment from the UK Government to construct a powerful and inspiring statement which will endure in Normandy to honour the fallen.

Distinguished architect Liam O’Connor has been commissioned to design a fitting national tribute where those who lost their lives will have their names inscribed as a permanent reminder of their sacrifice and bravery during the Normandy Campaign of 1944.

Two sites have been identified where the Memorial could be built. One in Colleville Montgomery and another in Ver Sur Mer. Both sites have the support of their respective Mayors and surveys of both sites are due to begin on 7 March 2017.

Whilst Government funding has been secured for the monument, further investment from the private corporate sector and the general public is needed to construct an adjoining interpretation / information centre. This will provide a narrative highlighting the emotional and historical significance of the sacrifices from a British perspective with original documentation and video footage on view. Primarily educational aimed at school visits it will also offer a place from which families can trace their relatives and gain a general understanding of the events which unfolded on French soil in the early summer of 1944.

Due to be unveiled on 6 June 2019, the 75th anniversary of D Day, this world-class memorial will be the culmination of much commitment and determination to create a monument to our British servicemen and women and those from the civilian services who lost their lives in Normandy.

They will always be remembered.

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