D-Day commemorations: honouring those who served

Sub-Lieutenant Richard Pirrie, who served in World War 2, has had his name added to the Normandy Memorial Wall during commemorations for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

CAPTIONSub-Lieutenant Richard Pirrie has been honoured at the Normandy Memorial Wall during commemorations for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Story by Lieutenant Commander John Thompson. 

The then 24-year-old Royal Australian Navy officer served alongside British and Canadian troops from the landing ship HMS Invicta. He commanded a small spotter boat to identify and neutralise – ultimately successfully – German positions at Normandy, saving many allied lives.

He is one of 13 veterans from 12 allied countries who were added to the Memorial Wall in Portsmouth, in recognition of the enduring international relationships that were forged during the Second World War.

Sub-Lieutenant Pirrie’s nephew, Michael Pirrie, travelled to the UK and France for the commemorations.

CAPTIONMichael Pirrie, nephew of Sub-Lieutenant Richard Pirrie, touches his uncle’s name at the British Normandy Memorial Wall in Portsmouth, UK.

“It was very emotional being there, and seeing and touching my uncle’s name on the wall. He is someone I never knew but have heard so much about,” Mr Pirrie said.

“I am so proud that he was selected to represent all the Australians who took part on D-Day, especially given this is the first time that an Australian has been nominated and selected to represent the nation and its D-Day forces on an international monument.”

Sub-Lieutenant Pirrie was killed when his boat was simultaneously hit by a heavy German on-shore gun and a floating mine.

From all three services, 3300 Australians took part in the combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944. By the end of the day, the allies had established a foothold along the French coast to begin their costly advance to liberate northwest Europe, finally achieving victory over the Nazis a year later.

Head of Australian Defence Staff in London Brigadier Grant Mason said the world owed a debt of gratitude to all those who took part in the D-Day operation, Operation Overlord.

“On this day, we honour and remember all those who served, and their families, for the enormous courage they demonstrated in what was the biggest amphibious invasion in military history,” Brigadier Mason said.

“It’s a proud moment to be able to represent all current Australian serving personnel as we give thanks for the sacrifices they made for the freedom that we enjoy today.”

CAPTIONThousands attend commemorations at Portsmouth, UK, to remember those who took part in the D-Day landings at Normandy 80 years ago.

Australia’s main contribution was in the air with 2800 Australian airmen serving in Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, along with 500 Australian sailors on Royal Navy vessels and a smaller number of Australian Army officers assigned to British units.

All who fought were remembered at a special commemoration service in Portsmouth attended by thousands of people, including Brigadier Mason and other senior ADF personnel along with King Charles III and Queen Camilla, The Prince of Wales and a number of surviving D-Day veterans.

“It was an incredible day, gathering at Portsmouth 80 years after the invasion, this time as a group of citizens but also united in our belief in the values of freedom and democracy,” Mr Pirrie said.

“And then to be at Juno Beach the next day and trying to visualise what it must have been like for all of those involved, including my uncle, and the bravery and courage those men had, is something I’ll never forget.”





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