Local D-Day veterans remembered at special service in Magheragall

Tuesday June 11th 2024

Standard bearers form a guard of honour outside Magheragall Parish Church following the June 9 Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Photo: Norman Briggs

Two local World War Two veterans were remembered at a special Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving in Magheragall Parish Church on June 9 to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The rector, the Rev Nicholas Dark, paid tribute to the late Gerald Walker, a member of Magheragall, and to the late Bill Eames, a pilot and a member of St Mark’s, Ballymacash. Both were involved in D-Day.

On June 6, 80 years to the day of the landings at Normandy, Nicholas led a 10am service at the War Memorial on Castle Street Lisburn. This included the laying of wreaths by the Royal British Legion.

D-Day anniversary cake is cut by John Roberts and Stephen Walker.

Nicholas invited members of the Lisburn branch of the Royal British Legion to share in the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving in the Parish Church on June 9. During his sermon, he made reference to the two Church of Ireland D-Day veterans.

“In my time in Lisburn I have meet two such veterans both of whom were modest and unassuming about the heroic part they played,” Nicholas said. “One was the late Gerald Walker of this parish. He served in the second Battalion the Kensington Regiment (Princess Louise’s own) and was part of the second wave of soldiers to arrive in Normandy.

“The other was the late Bill Eames, a pilot and a member of St Mark’s Parish, Lisburn. Bill recounted that before dawn on D-Day, his squadron towed gliders to northern France. The troops he guided in helped secure Pegasus Bridge, an important target for the Allies.

“In the early part of the war, his uncle’s pub in Sheffield was destroyed in an air raid. Fifty people sheltering in the cellar were killed, including his uncle and aunt. His cousin Jean, who was just a baby, had been evacuated to Enniskillen and she grew up as part of Bill’s family.”

Nicholas continued: “These gentlemen are no longer with us to share their memories but like you, in my prayers this week, I have thanked God for all those who fought for our freedom, and I have also remembered in prayer and gratitude those veterans who have been able to travel to France to remember fallen comrades.”

As the service drew to a close, the standard bearers lead the congregation from church, forming a guard of honour at the door, as all present made their way to church hall for lunch organised by the Select Vestry.

During this, a cake was cut by John Roberts and Stephen Walker, Stephen being the son of the late Gerald Walker. John’s grandfather, Wiilliam Roberts of the Royal Artillery, is named on the Parish War Memorial, one of the Parish fallen from World War Two.

Interview with the late Bill Eames, published in Connor Connections and on this website in April 2020.

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