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Church of the Ascension, Burghclere

July 2014

For reference, here is the Rector's July letter:

There has been a lot on the TV and radio in recent days about the 70th anniversary of the D- Day landings in 1944. One of the artefacts given to Newtown Church is a small Communion set which the priest could use when taking communion to the housebound and sick.

The Communion set was given to Newtown church by the 151st [Ayrshire Yeomanry] Field Regt [Royal Artillery] in memory of their Chaplain, the Rev Cyril Minton-Senhouse who was killed in action on June 30th 1944 in France.

Before the war Cyril Minton-Senhouse had been the priest at Newtown. He came from Haslemere, was an Oxford graduate and was married to Rebe. He is buried in Ryes war cemetery, Bazenville which is just to the east of Bayeux. He lies there with 650 Commonwealth dead and 335 German casualties.

We normally remember our war dead in November but the Normandy landings were such an amazing piece of organisation that the men and women who planned and carried it out deserve of our gratitude and deepest respect.

Generals may plan wars and campaigns but they don’t win wars, though they can certainly lose them. Once battle is joined, time and time again it is the courage, initiative, discipline and training of the ordinary soldiers and the regimental officers that are the decisive factors. Ordinary men like my father and uncles, now all deceased. My uncle Brian, who was seasick if he even looked at a ship, spent two days bobbing up and down in Gosport harbour on a landing craft before assaulting the beaches with 45 Commando.  He encouraged himself and his heaving stomach by thinking that June 6th was his birthday and no one ever got killed on their birthday!

It is unusual to know what your parents were doing at an exact moment. But I know exactly what my dad was doing just after 8 am on the 6th June. He landed at Arromanches and immediately came under unpleasantly accurate shell fire. He led a Royal Engineers reconnaissance unit, and as they could not get forward to do their job for while, they sat and waited under the sea wall at Arromanches , and being typically British they had a cup of tea. Many years later he returned with my mum and sat under the sea wall again!

It is right that at this time, and bearing in mind the outbreak of the First World War, we listen to the stories and memories of those who were there. We commend those who died in action and those who have passed away since to the grace and mercy of God, we honour those who remain, and we remember all of them, First and Second World Wars, with gratitude.

The Reverend David Bartholomew .... July 2014