History of Stockport and District Normandy Veterans Association
Stockport and District Normandy Veterans Association was formed in 1988 – 89 by a small group of Normandy Veterans who wanted to establish the NVA in their local area, rather than travelling to Chester. There are memories of an initial meeting in a car park, and the Veterans were offered temporary accommodation for their meetings at Stockport Armoury until a terrorist alert meant, for security reasons, it could no longer be used.
The Veterans turned to the priest of Our Lady and The Apostles Church, Shaw Heath, to ask if he could offer them accomodation for their monthly meetings. The response was: Of course you can and Father, as the Veterans came to call him, became their patron. He explained that his own family background (his father had worked in the Liverpool Docks during the war, experiencing nightly bombing, and that he himself was named after an uncle who had died at sea) made him feel an affinity with the Veterans.
He started his involvement by getting on the coach that was travelling to Normandy to bless those travelling to commemorate the Campaign and to remember those who had died in the process and he lightheartedly comments that most of them probably didn’t know who he was or why he was getting on the coach; but they soon would. From that time onwards (1992) Father has accompanied the Veterans as their pastor, delivering commemorative services and offering prayers within the Commonwealth (and German) cemeteries. Whoever Father takes under his wing feels special and nurtured, and this has been the case with the Normandy Veterans. He has come to know them, and their wives, and has established a special relationship. And he has promised that as long as any of them want to return, he will go with them, taking over the burden of arranging the pilgrimage.
Our Lady and The Apostles Church has a special commemorative medal of the 50th anniversary of the Campaign and when the flag was laid up in 2007, it was placed within the church.
Normandy Veterans undertaking community work and attending social events
History of the National Normandy Veterans Association
The PDF of the history of the national NVA is copied from the official programme of the 50th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall on June 25th 1994, Many veterans were not aware of these details as (like the Stockport branch No 78) they only became members later and others joined in more recent years. The first NVA meeting was held in Grimsby in 1981.
History of the Spirit of Normandy Trust known as SONT
The NVA officially closed on 15th November 2014. As agreed the remaining funds were transferred, and many of the responsibilities such as the maintenance of the Monty Statue and the Normandy Veterans Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum were taken on by The Spirit of Normandy Trust, which is now the “home” and point of contact for the former members and all veterans of the Normandy Campaign.
Mary and Ian Stewart first got involved in 1985 when their company Award Productions Ltd were requested to strike and totally sponsor the Normandy Commemorative Medal which was launched in 1986. At that time they also helped set up the first NV Welfare & Benevolent Trust from sales of the medal.
The Spirit of Normandy Trust (SONT) was founded by the late General Peter Martin in 1994 as the “charity arm” of the NVA – & Ian & Mary Stewart were both invited to sit on the committee with veterans and officers of the NVA, to help under the auspices of the SONT for the 50th anniversary and primarily for the concert. Ian was appointed a Trustee in 1996. Mary volunteered (probably in a rash moment!) as honorary secretary in 1998. This was the year they sold Award Productions Ltd whose directors Bob & Frances van Mook continued to support the NVA until its closure and now generously support the Trust.
Ian & Mary are still serving with the SONT which is now making plans for the 75th anniversary. At the helm is Richard Pallusinski, Chairman, who was for many years Hon Secretary of the Wiltshire branch NVA and continues to support the remaining veterans and widows. Also The Trust is delighted to have as a Trustee, Flaminia Martin, the General’s granddaughter.