LAST month I had a short break to Normandy to visit the various sites from the D-Day landings in 1944. A fascinating trip which took in a walk along the beach the British and Canadians landed on that eventful day, a museum to the Free French Commandos who were amongst the first to land and Pegasus Bridge where the British Paratroopers landed by glider within feet of a key bridge.

A visit full of contrasts from 1944 – the heroic actions of the young soldiers, the warm welcome of the French to the liberators despite a great many civilian deaths from Allied bombing and huge decaying military fortifications.

Two sites generated very mixed emotions. A visit to the lovely Abbey d'Ardenne, a quiet and peaceful place, but we discovered it was also the site where the SS murdered Canadian prisoners of war. Equally the immaculate Ranville War Cemetery near Pegasus Bridge. As we walked along looking at the graves, the names of the soldiers and their young age, one in particular stood out. The grave of an unknown Airborne Solider. The engraving on the headstone said, "Known unto God". Who was he and what was his story? Who were his family back home and were they still waiting for him to return? A life cut short by war.

We chatted to some locals and Canadian and American tourists. After hearing we were from Salisbury, all had heard of the attempted murder of the ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a nerve agent. Real concern from the people we spoke to about the impact on the city, the people; were other people at risk? What was the disruption caused by the increased security presence?

A common theme emerged, they had not heard of Salisbury until now. The only images they had were from TV of Police cordons, people in white protective clothing and politicians discussing the implications of the attack.

The events planned for over the next few months will help raise the positive profile of Salisbury, and hopefully a continuation of the lovely weather we had over the bank holiday weekend will help bring the tourists back. News that Salisbury has been shortlisted for the National Armed Forces Day in 2019 is encouraging; let’s hope that Salisbury goes on to be awarded it. It would be a fitting award given the significant military bases locally. By then the new veterans village will be open in Wilton, incorporating new homes and an enterprise centre, further evidence of the commitment made by Salisbury to current and former members of the armed forces.

Our city has been disrupted and damaged by recent events. The challenge for all of us going forward is to promote our wonderful city to overcome the view of it that it is the front line of a new, dangerous, Cold War.