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D-Day 80: Escorting Standing with Giants

On April 5, 2024, Kelvin Thomas, Wolfie McKendrick, Robert Skivington and Colin Davies, from our Land Systems division were honoured to support the Standing With Giants project to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy on June 6. As part of a larger group comprised of various Harley Davidson Owners Group (HOG) Chapters from across the UK, they met at Blenheim Palace, to escort four lorries to Portsmouth on their way to Normandy.

The Standing With Giants project involves installing 1,475 handcrafted silhouettes across the wild meadow field of the British Normandy Memorial called “For Your Tomorrow.” The art installation by artist Dan Barton will be on display in France from April to mid-August 2024. Each giant represents a service person who died serving under British Command on D-Day.

“As we made our way east from Wales,” says Kelvin Thomas, who led the General Dynamics group, “we met up with three other chapters and arrived at Blenheim Palace 58 bikes strong.” They joined the rest of the group outside the grounds and totalled 268 bikes when they marked the route up to the main building where the four lorries were waiting for their escort. “A military band marked the occasion,” says Kelvin, “and there were emotional speeches from organisers and local Oxfordshire MP Robert Courts, and the BBC were there to cover the event for the news.”

The General Dynamics team, all ex-servicemen, were honoured to be part of this special event. They felt it was important to take part to pay tribute to those who died for our freedom and to raise awareness of the heavy price each individual soldier paid on D-Day and throughout the War.

“There was a sombre but happy atmosphere at Blenheim,” says Kelvin, “made all the more poignant when we first saw the silhouettes.” Music from the era was being played by a Military Band and the sight of the statues forced reflection throughout the crowd.

The Chapters then escorted the lorries full of ‘giants’ to Portsmouth Harbour where they were loaded onto a ferry for their onward passage along with sixty-eight bikes and riders.

“The evening was spent with friends contemplating the importance of that day in Normandy nearly 80 years ago,” says Kelvin, “as well as remembering our fallen friends from more recent battles.” Reflecting on that evening Kelvin says the common trait among the riders was the look in their eyes. “The glow about them wasn’t just from the 300 mile ride,” he says, “but a sense of pride in all our hearts and the reminder that we must cherish the freedom that was fought for by us, and by those brave souls.”



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