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Veteran Stanley Elliss, aged 102, is a special guest at Ashford’s D-Day commemorations

Published: 06/06/2024
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A very special guest joined Ashford’s D-Day 80 Service of Reflection in the town’s Memorial Gardens – 102-year-old veteran of the Normandy landings and local resident Stanley Robert Elliss from Smeeth.

When Stanley’s family heard about the celebrations being organised by Ashford Borough Council they contacted us to ask if he could attend our D-Day commemorations. Of course we were delighted to invite him to our events and he chose to attend the 11am Service of Reflection on Thursday 6 June.

His daughter Jane Winfield said Farnborough-born Stanley, who turns 103 in October, landed on Gold Beach in Normandy on the morning of 7 June 1944 as part of RAF Servicing Commandos 3209 Division.

Stanley and his comrades were minus their equipment, which was lost on an accompanying landing craft which was sunk. His platoon was tasked with attacking and capturing the German airfield at Beny-Sur-Mer and setting it up for servicing the Spitfire squadrons supporting the invasion. By 1 August the regular servicing crews arrived and Stanley and his brothers in arms were repatriated to England and soon after shipped out to Burma to continue the war effort.

Stanley’s Normandy mission involving support for Spitfire squadrons is particularly apt since the ceremony in Ashford’s Memorial Gardens also marks the installation of the Floral Spitfire back into the gardens.

After the war, Stanley pursued his passion for gardening with a career in horticulture, working at a number of large estates and in his later years at the agricultural college in Wye. He also had a great love of travelling to destinations like South America, France and many other places. His wife Olive died 28 years ago.

Daughter Jane said: “Dad has never boasted about his D-Day experiences and is very humble about the part he played. Rather than telling us of the horrors he must have faced, he has always focused on the lighter stories, like the fact that all their catering and kitchen equipment was sunk with the landing craft so they were forced to make do by cutting an old oil drum in half to serve as a makeshift cooking fire.”

Alan Brind, an Ashford Borough Council employee and himself a Royal Navy veteran, is Vice Chair of the Ashford Royal British Legion and a week before the D-Day celebrations he and a couple of RBL pals went to meet Stanley for a chat in Smeeth, where he lives with daughter Jane and son in law Ken. They will be giving Stanley an RAF beret for him to wear at the ceremony.

Stanely Elliss with members of the Royal British Legion Ashford Branch

Stanley Elliss with members of the Royal British Legion Ashford Branch

Mayor of Ashford Cllr Lyn Suddards also visited Stanley ahead of the Memorial Gardens event. 

Our photos show Alan and his RBL comrades with Stanley in his Smeeth home. There is also a photo showing Stanley on the beach at Dunkirk during the D-Day 75 Commemorations.

Stanley Elliss at Dunkirk for D-Day 75

Stanley Elliss at Dunkirk for D-Day 75

Ashford’s D-Day celebrations

Thursday 6 June 2024 marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when allied forces mounted the largest amphibious invasion the world has ever witnessed. Codenamed Operation Overlord, the events on 6 June 1944 saw around 4,000 ships and landing craft set down about 132,500 troops on five Normandy beaches in an action that would bring about the liberation of north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.

The UK will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings with a series of major commemorations and events across the UK and in France. Given Ashford’s strong military links a programme of activities are planned in the borough:

  • Thursday 6 June D-Day 80 Flag Raising Ceremony at 9am at the Civic Centre.
  • Thursday 6 June D-Day 80 Commemorative Ceremony at 11am in Memorial Gardens which will also mark the installation of the Floral Spitfire back into the gardens. This event will be hosted by the Mayor, with the service being led by the RBL Chaplain Rev. Dr Sue Starkings. East Stour Primary School choir will perform, and a student from Ashford School will read out the specially written D-Day 80 School Poem, and a student from Ashford College will also read a poem.

Thursday 6 June D-Day 80 Beacon Lighting at 9.15pm in Civic Park – the Mayor will announce the lighting of Ashford’s Civic Memorial Beacon and will then read out the International Tribute.