Their Majesties The King and The Queen officially opened ‘The Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning’ at the site of the British Normandy Memorial this week.

The unveiling of a plaque took place at 11:30 BST following the national commemoration on 6 June 2024, the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

This historic moment was also be attended by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chair of the Normandy Memorial Trust, General Lord Richard Dannatt and Chair of BAE Systems, Cressida Hogg, among other VIPs and dignitaries.

The Winston Churchill Centre has been funded through a donation of £600,000 from the Trust’s principal sponsor, BAE Systems.

The Ministry of Defence has also contributed to the construction of the Centre, alongside the Normandy Region, the Department of Calvados and the Seulles Terre et Mer Community of Communes. The new building houses two educational exhibition galleries telling the stories of those who fought on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy, curated by The Royal British Legion.

A specially designed classroom for use by schools from the UK, France and beyond will enable younger generations to understand our past and learn about the effort required to make the Normandy Landings possible. The centre will be open to the public from Friday 7 June onwards and entry is free. This is an historic milestone in the evolution of the Memorial project. The creation of the Centre will fulfil the Trust’s ambition to help future generations learn from the events of summer 1944 and keep alive the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

General Lord Richard Dannatt, Chairman of Trustees of the Normandy Memorial Trust said:

This year is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings which opened the door to Western Europe’s freedoms. The Normandy Memorial Trust is building ‘The Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning’ at the British Normandy Memorial. The purpose of this education centre is to ensure that new generations never forget what Britain did for Europe in 1944 and to remember the sacrifice of so many.

“We are delighted that the Centre’s ‘principal sponsor’ is Britain’s leading defence company BAE Systems. Like us, they recognise the importance of understanding the past and learning its lessons. We are deeply grateful for their support as indeed we are to our French partners, the Normandy Region, Department of Calvados and the Communauté de Communes, Seulles Terre et Mer. I should also like to thank the Churchill family for agreeing to the centre being named after Britain’s distinguished wartime prime minister.

Cressida Hogg, Chair of BAE Systems said:

We are privileged to be able to play a part in creating the Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning to permanently commemorate the D-day landings. As a company with a strong heritage in protecting our armed forces, I’m incredibly proud that we can honour the courage and sacrifice of those men and women who gave so much to protect our freedoms. Sadly, with a dwindling number of surviving veterans, D-Day will soon pass from living memory. So, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to permanently mark their place in history, enabling young people to understand our past and learn the lessons from it to shape our future.

Grant Shapps , Defence Secretary said:

In 2024 the Ministry of Defence will help lead the nation in commemorating those who died in the liberation of Normandy and thanking the Greatest Generation for their extraordinary achievements 80 years ago. I’m proud that the MOD has helped to fund the Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning to ensure new generations come to understand the bravery, sacrifice and determination of the veterans of Normandy.

Ken Hay MBE, Normandy Veteran and Memorial Ambassador said:

Remembrance and education go hand in hand, and for future generations to keep the memory of the 22,442 alive they need to understand the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy – why it happened, who was involved, what they did and why it must never be allowed to happen again. The new Winston Churchill Centre will go a long way to achieving this for schoolchildren, families and young people visiting the Memorial.

“I visit to talk to schools in England and in Normandy and to have 120 children paying attention to one’s every word, as is evidenced by the number and range of questions that follow, speaks volumes for the teaching they have received and for those who shape modern education – far more meaningful than the Roman & Greek wars that were taught when I was a lad. I have no doubt that the new Education Centre can only enhance future generation’s understanding of this key battle in the Second World War, the part we played in the liberation of Europe and, most important, the price paid by those that we Veterans left behind.

Source and photo credit: BAE Systems

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