D-Day Revisited: Chelsea Flower Show Garden Honours Normandy Veterans

The memories of veterans who survived the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago have been immortalised in stone and steel.

The sculptures are part of a garden being exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show and which will soon move to France to commemorate the beginning of the liberation of Europe.

The garden will be outside the Royal Hospital Chelsea and throughout the week 75 veterans have been invited to come and share their stories with the public.

The sculptures show personnel as they were during the Second World War, and then depicts them later in life.

11th Armoured Division veteran Bill Pendell was chosen to represent the Normandy veterans in the garden tribute. 

He has been made into a sculpture and is featured sitting on the beach looking back at a younger version of himself making his way onto the shore.

His daughter, Fay Pendell, said she was impressed by the sculpture: "It is a very good likeness.

"On some angles, it really catches you, because it looks like him."

"Seeing the Belgian gates and the waves of the sea was exactly as I remembered them when I landed on D-Day," said Normandy veteran Albert "Joe" Cattini.

D-Day Revisited Young Bill

John Everiss designed the garden and says the idea behind the design came to him after talking to the men who were there. 

Describing the garden he said: "We have a sculpture of an old veteran and then we have a sculpture of them as young men, coming through the water and trying to fight their way onto the beach, like a fragment of memory as if they are just thinking back to the past."

The first step in the process of making the sculptures took place in a studio in the south of England.

A 3D scanner was used to create digital images of volunteers dressed in soldiers uniforms.

From these images, polystyrene models of the figures were created.

Young Bill has been made out of washers so John could place these over the top before removing the polystyrene from within.

John used this technique to allow the sculptures to be very detailed: "What is so amazing about this process is the amount of detail you get with the folds and the creases," he said.

"They are so realistic.

"As a sculptor, you get excited about the form of the crease and how it shapes here and what I will be able to do when I put the washers over the top."

Watch: The creators of the garden show how the monuments were made

Stone sculptor, Thompson Dagnell, has been tasked creating the sculpture of Old Bill out of millstone grit.

He has been carrying out the majority of the work at the bottom of his garden: "The main thing that I want to get across is old Bill will be engaging with his younger self, he will be sort of leaning forwards toward the figure.

"I want the people who see it to get that feeling of all the thing he would want to tell him younger self."

Although sculpting from the stone may seem quite repetitive, Thompson says that actually with every bang of the chisel a decision is being made. 

Once a part of the stone has been removed, it cannot be put back.

D-Day Revisited Old Bill

Sadly, Bill passed away in December 2018.

Garden Designer John described Bill as charming, mischievous and amusing, and that although he did not live to see the garden today, it highlighted the importance of the project for those veterans who will see it.

Once the flower show comes to an end the veterans will gift the garden to the town of Arromanches in Normandy, where it shall remain forever.

Related topics

Join Our Newsletter


Amazing view from RAF Voyager supporting Typhoons from XI Squadron

Gurkha recruits face chemical attack test in most arduous training to date

Veterans wear long-awaited Nuclear Test Medals in public for first time