World War Two veterans share 'living history' with children ahead of 80th anniversary of D-Day

A group of Second World War veterans came together to share a "bit of living history" ahead of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, as they passed their stories onto schoolchildren.

The amphibious invasion of Europe by Allied forces marked a significant turning point in the Second World War.

Nine men who served during the war gathered at the Union Jack Club near Waterloo in London on Friday to share their stories and recall the D-Day and Normandy landings.

Ken Hay, Alec Penstone, Stan Ford, Henry Rice, Donald Howkins, Richard Aldred, Gilbert Clarke, John Dennett and Mervyn Kersh, aged between 98 and 103, travelled from across the UK for the event.

Organisers said it is likely to be the last time they are ever seen together outside of the official D-Day commemorations taking place in Portsmouth and Normandy in June.

Mr Rice, 98, from Cranleigh, Surrey, was a signalman who arrived off Juno Beach five days after D-Day.

Talking about the event, he said: "I managed to hold back a few tears, to be honest with you... I put on an act of mouth and trousers and laughed, but I could quietly go and sit in the corner for 10 minutes."

Earlier in the day, pupils aged between 10 and 14 from three London schools asked the veterans questions about their experiences.

General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British Army, addressed the event. He said: "It's all about the veterans, bon voyage to them!

"Let's take the opportunity now to get to know them, to meet them, to hear their stories, to write about their stories, to film their stories, to record their stories so that this bit of living history is captured."

Mr Aldred served as a tank driver and landed on Gold Beach in Normandy the day after D-Day.

He spoke to the students, sharing stories of the camaraderie within his regiment.

The 99-year-old said: "You all stick together like glue and the main thing is 'how soon can I have a cup of tea and a bully beef sandwich?'"

He described hearing a "god awful thump" when enemy fire hit his tank in France.

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Mr Ford served on HMS Fratton, an escort ship that accompanied vessels ferrying men and supplies across the Channel.

The 98-year-old recalled seeing thousands of ships setting sail on D-Day from his station in Selsey Bill in West Sussex.

He said: "Battleships, cruisers, destroyers, right down to the small little minesweepers.

"As a 19-year-old, I said to myself 'we're not going to lose this war', which we didn't."

Mr Ford told the pupils present that there were "humorous times" that helped his regiment get through the war, such as when the refrigeration system broke down and he and others were told to eat as much food as they could before it went bad.

The D-Day operation of June 6 1944 brought together the land, air and sea forces of the Allied forces in what became known as the largest amphibious invasion in military history.

It is regarded as a success and began the process of winning the war in Europe.

The event was organised by The Normandy Memorial Trust and The Spirit of Normandy Trust.