A retired bandmaster will sound the Last Post on the beaches of Normandy during 70th anniversary commemorations, using a cornet found there during the First World War.
Alan Thorniley, 69, whose father took part in the D-Day landings in 1944, will play a cornet on loan from the Mayor of Saltney, Chester, Cllr Alan Evans.
The cornet was found by a friend of Cllr Evans’ father on the beach in France during the 1914-1918 war and brought back to Chester for his uncle Tom to play. It will be the cornet’s first visit to France since 1918.
Mr Thorniley will be present with members of the Wirral and Chester branch of the Normandy Veterans, which is based in Ellesmere Port.
Saltney Town Council clerk Mr Thorniley, who lives in Upton, Chester, is the retired bandmaster at Chester Salvation Army and honorary bugler of the Cheshire branch of the Royal British Legion. He will be travelling to France by coach with his wife Pamela and the veterans branch.
It is intended Alan will play Last Post twice whilst in Normandy, firstly at the scattering of the ashes of one of the Normandy Veterans on Sword Beach this Friday and again the following day at the Polar Bear memorial service.
Alan’s late father, Sergeant Arthur Thorniley, was a tank commander who actually landed on Sword Beach in the early hours of June 6, 1944. Alan will be wearing his father's medals in his memory.
Alan, former director at Chester Magistrates’ Court, said: “I went with him to Pegasus (bridge) for the 50th anniversary. I walked some of these spots with him. He didn’t talk much about it. He finished up at Belsen and witnessed what happened there. That influenced his thinking, to put it mildly.”
During the trip, Alan will visit the museum at Pegasus where, in the basement, are two inner tank wheels from his father’s tank which was hit by the Germans who used the smoke as a guide to aim fire. His father and the driver drove the tank into a ditch to extinguish the flames, from where the wheels were later recovered.
Alan, who has daughters Helen and Pamela Jayne plus five grandchildren, said the French cornet was more than 100 years old and had to be repaired because it was wearing thin in places.
Sounding the Last Post will be emotional, as Alan acknowledges. “I will think about other things,” he said.