THE BISHOP of Durham has blessed a memorial paying tribute to County Durham soldiers who died in a little-known but crucial action in the Second World War.

In one of his first official duties, The Right Reverend Paul Butler blessed the 1.4-tonne during a ceremony at masons North East Granite in Langley Moor, County Durham, before its departure for France.

A group from Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service will accompany the stone to Lingevres, near Bayeux, Normandy, where the Durham Light Infantry’s 9th Battalion took on the Germans.

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They capture of the village on June 14, 1944, with the loss of dozens of lives, prevented the Germans holding a vital position blocking the Allied advance.

Fire service watch manager Allan Pattinson, who along with a group of fellow firefighters has for several years visited Normandy to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, said: “As we travelled round, we noticed that there were lots of memorials but none bearing the letters DLI.

“We always go the little village of Lingevres which was the site of a key battle but there was nothing to commemorate their sacrifices, not even at the local church, where the wounded soldiers were taken after the battle. We decided to do something to put that right.”

Security company Serco have offered to pay to transport the memorial to France.

Money for the plaque was raised during a collection outside Sainsbury’s at Durham’s Arnison Centre.

Bishop Butler said: “Remembering is part and parcel of how we find healing.

“Some people think we open up wounds by remembering but, in fact, it makes sure that they heal properly, that we get wholesome healing. It is a real privilege to be here.”

Private Dick Atkinson, who took part in the battle, said: “To have the Bishop blessing the stone is out of this world.”