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thedrifter
10-03-07, 10:16 AM
MARINES WILL HONOUR WAR HEROES AT REUNION
Date : 03.10.07


The heroes who saved a French village from Hitler's crack Panzer troops will be honoured by Royal Marines from Devon this weekend.

The gathering will also mark the end of the line for the veterans' group, the 46 Royal Marine Commando Association, formed to commemorate their bravery on and after D-Day.

More than 120 marines liberated the town of Rots in Northern France in a hard-fought battle against German Grenadier battalions that cost the lives of 22 commandos.

Now, 63 years later, the association will lay up its colours for the last time at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone.

The poignant ceremony on Sunday will be attended by dignitaries from Rots, who have made a special journey to this final reunion before the association fades into history.

Among those present will be former commando Peter Gardner, 85, from Exmouth.

He will join wartime comrades and stand proudly to attention for a march-past attended by officers, friends and young marine recruits at the ceremony including the Mayor of Rots, Jean Durand.

Mr Gardner, who ran a family clothing shop at Exeter which is now operated by his son Ian, said: "The association has been going for more than 30 years but we have had to call it a day because membership has dwindled to 12.

"Our members fought and won the battle at Rots after the D-Day landings and the 22 who died liberating the town are remembered on a stone epitaph erected there by townsfolk.

"It will be a sad day on Sunday because it will not only be the last of our association but also our final reunion with our many French friends.

"We feel so proud that we are to be honoured by the Royal Marines.

"The bravery shown by the commandos will live on, even after our association ceases."

Mr Gardner joined the commandos at the beginning of the war and was later transferred to sea duties in the Royal Marines.

He was attached to duties with the landing craft used to get men and equipment onto the beach following the main onslaught by the Allies onto the Normandy beaches.

Dave Fradley, spokesman for the CTC at Lympstone, said: "It is an honour for us to host the veterans on this, their last reunion."

Ellie