THEY are now frail and in their late 80s and 90s, it rained every day and they faced a rough Channel crossing – similar to the conditions when they crossed over to France on D-Day 68 years before.
But nothing could dampen the spirits of York’s Normandy veterans as they returned to the D-Day beaches once more to pay their respects to fallen comrades.
Seven members of the York branch of the Normandy Veterans Association – Ken Smith, Ken Bell, Gordon Collinson, George Meredith, Cyril Haworth, Roy Rowbotham and Douglas Haw – made it on this year’s anniversary trip, along with their carers and wives, and also former Lord Mayors of York John Galvin and Brian Watson.
Mr Smith, 87, of Wheldrake, who is branch treasurer, said: “We experienced heavy showers every day in Normandy, but it did not dampen the spirits.
“We returned to the invasion beaches and battlefields for an emotional visit after 68 years, and went to some of the cemeteries to pay our respects to comrades who remain there.
“It was no disgrace to shed a tear, as I have done many times, when one could see 8,000 in one cemetery alone. These were mainly young men who were mainly conscripted, and yet they fought for the liberation of Europe and mankind, but now are hardly mentioned by the authorities.”
Mr Smith was pictured by a 60- ton German Tiger tank outside one of the Normandy villages with two other veterans, George Meredith and Gordon Collinson.
He said: “It was a shell from a similar tank which caused my wounds on October 20, 1944, in Holland, when I was injured in the lower abdomen and inner thigh.”
He said the return crossing from Calais was delayed by three hours because of atrocious weather and, having left Normandy by coach at 9am, the party did not get back to York until the early hours of the following day.
He said he hoped some of the veterans would be able to make it across to Normandy next year and then in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.