Remembering D-Day 80 years on

With the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaching, we share a blog by a Cruse Scotland volunteer, Audrey, who had a memorable encounter with veterans.

May 30, 2024

The UK will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 with a series of major commemorations and events across the UK and in France.

Also known as D-Day, the historic operation saw the Allied Forces mount a large-scale invasion of Nazi-occupied France that ultimately tipped the course of the Second World War in the Allies’ favour.

Cruse Scotland volunteer, Audrey Holligan, recalls a moving encounter she had with war veterans when she previously attended a Legion d'Honneur service on D-Day.


A few years ago, I was invited to represent Cruse Scotland at a ceremony to celebrate D-Day at the French Consulate, where war veterans were being honoured with the Légion d’Honneur - the highest military distinction awarded by France dating back to 1802.

The ceremony required full military dress for those attending who had served, or were currently serving. The whole spectacle was breath-taking. Army, Air Force and Navy were all represented.

Five veterans were there - the youngest being 92! It really was an honour to be in their presence; this was living history to me. I had, of course, studied the Second World War at school but this was actually standing right beside me.

When chatting with these amazing veterans, I was struck that not one of them felt like a hero, not one of them really wanted to chat about their experience of D-Day, every one of them absolutely humbled to be there. Their thoughts of Remembrance Day were about fallen “brothers”, about still having to survive after the landings. The terror of another week of fighting to secure their place on French soil, the memories of leaving friends and comrades dead, dying and injured on the beach. It was very different than the sanitised version in school. These were men who were still living that day. When they spoke to me, they were still young men in the prime of life, you could see it in each of their eyes.

Remembering for them was painful, they spoke of the lives cut short who would never come back.

I will never forget listening to a chap who jumped from a war plane with a friend who was dead by the time their parachutes landed on the beach. He had been telling his story when the chap next to him asked what his friend's name was. Low and behold it was his father!! You could have heard a pin drop as they looked deeply at each other for what seemed liked a lifetime. Both men in that moment sharing memories of that soldier, father and friend that had died.

What were the chances of these two meeting? The man who’s father had been killed had brought his son with him. The son was 20 and also currently serving - and he was the same age as his grandfather was when he had had died. It was so poignant and you could feel the weight of it hang in the air. The veteran hugged his friend's son, and they both wept with so many emotions. The conversation that ensued was left for them to be private.

It was such a privilege and honour to have been involved in this event and it has brought a deeper meaning to events and occasions such as D-Day and Remembrance Day for me.


Many will remember the service and sacrifice of those in the forces during the D-Day commemorations and Cruse Scotland’s Freephone Bereavement Helpline will be available for anyone finding things a bit tough and wishing to speak with a listening ear.

As we think about past conflicts, we don’t need to look far to see so much uncertainty, violence, and sadness in the world right now. For those who are grieving this can add additional anxiety making grief more painful or, allow a shared experience of ‘collective grief’ which may bring some comfort and reassurance.

Please rest assured that it is completely normal to have a strong emotional response when something of global significance happens, such as war, natural disasters or a high profile death.


The Cruse Scotland freephone helpline, 0808 802 6161, is open Mon-Fri 9am-8pm and Sat & Sun 10am-2pm and our GriefChat facility is available 9am-9pm Mon-Fri on our website:

Remembering D-Day 80 years on

About the Author

Audrey Holligan - Cruse Scotland Volunteer

Audrey has a background in counselling, psychology and education. She has volunteered for Cruse Scotland for five years as a Children and Young People's Supporter, Step-by-Step Manager, BBC Grief Consultant and many other ‘hats'.

She is currently studying MSc Play Therapy, following her huge passion for understanding and researching trauma and grief in children and how play helps with therapeutic healing. Her professional and academic path was motivated by her own experience of both her parents dying when she was very young and recognising the importance of grief support for children and young people.

Audrey says, "to be able to contribute through Cruse Scotland is an absolute privilege. I am often humbled by the strength and resilience within the children and young people I support."

For her self-care, she enjoys drawing, socialising (tea and cake being a favourite!), walking with her dog Daisy, spending time with her precious family - and, of course, playing!