80th anniversary of D-Day commemorations in Mid and East Antrim

Thursday 23 May 2024

A wartime general who helped plan the Normandy Landings and a pigeon who brought one of the first operational messages back from the Landings will be remembered as part of the Normandy 80 commemorations in Mid and East Antrim.

General Sir James Stuart Steele

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will pay tribute to those who played their part in the D-Day landings with seven official events marking the anniversary of  D-Day in the Borough - with three separate evening events being held in Ballymena, Carrick and Larne – prior to the lighting of beacons.

Commemorations will commence on 5 June at Ballycarry - birthplace of one of the planners of the Landings - General Sir James Stuart Steele, who was also the man who signed the Mobilization Order which took the nation to war in 1939. The village primary school and community group will be participating in an event at the amenity green at 9.30am which is also open to the public.

On 6 June at 9.15am ‘Paddy the Pigeon’ who was born and trained in Carnlough and loaned to the RAF during the war, will be remembered.  Paddy was the first pigeon to bring back a message to an RAF base in England following the landings and he was awarded the Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Paddy returned safely from the war and lived the rest of his life in the village. His memorial plaque at Carnlough Harbour will be the focus of the commemoration which will include the two village primary schools and community representatives.

Also taking place on 6 June 2024 will be:

  • Larne War Memorial Gardens at 6.45pm - Civic service and wreath laying at Larne War Memorial Gardens highlighting the role Larne and her seafarers played in the Normandy Landings. Local clergy will conduct the service.
  • The Braid Ballymena at 7.30pm - Concert in the Atrium of the Braid with Kellswater Flute Band, the Swing Gals and piper Lee Hanna. This will be followed by the lighting of the Normandy 80 beacon at 9.15pm.
  • McNeill Theatre Larne at 7.45pm - Concert with Magheramorne Silver Band, Zolene and the ALS Band and piper Trevor Hassin, whose father landed at Normandy. Followed by procession from Royal British Legion to Chaine Memorial Road for lighting of a beacon after 9pm.
  • Carrick Town Hall at 8pm - Concert with Third Carrick Old Boys Silver Band, singer Lisa Dawson and piper John Fittis, followed by A walk to the Normandy 80 beacon at the war memorial, to be lit at 9.15pm

During the War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill described Northern Ireland as being pivotal in ensuring that “the light which now shines so strongly throughout the world would have been quenched”.  The small Council beacons will be a simple but symbolic reminder of the overall role which Northern Ireland played during the war years - including in the Normandy Landings.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, said: “Council is hosting a number of events to bring people together to mark this historic anniversary and we hope as many as possible will take part in the commemorations.

“Had the Normandy Landings been a failure there is little doubt that the war would have gone on far longer, with greater losses and possibly with different outcomes. We can all be grateful for the courage and sacrifice displayed by those thousands of young men who went onto the beaches, Normandy or were flown in on gliders.

“They came from across the United Kingdom, Canada and from the United States - protecting the values that we still hold dear, and which were in danger of being lost forever.”