Two seamen who served on same ship on D-Day reunited after 75 years
Ernest Green and Robert Barnett were both on HMS Redpole when it sailed to Juno beach.
Two able seamen who served on the same ship on D-Day have been reunited 75 years on.
Ernest Green, 93, and Robert Barnett, 93, were both on HMS Redpole when it sailed to Juno beach on June 6, 1944.
They spent three years together on the ship, finally returning home in 1946 – both living in the county of Dorset.
After stepping off HMS Redpole, they did not see each other again, until Wednesday.
The Second World War heroes smiled and shook hands as they met each other at the National Commemorative Event in Portsmouth.
Later, they shared a pint at the pub on board the cruise ship chartered by the Royal British Legion to mark the anniversary, which they are both staying on.
Both became emotional when describing their starkest memory of D-Day – having to watch on as they saw Canadian troops killed in the water before then.
The veterans told how they waited at anchor for 12 hours on June 6, before proceeding to Juno beach at 4pm.
They were both manning different guns on the ship.
Mr Barnett said the gun operated by Mr Green was the largest.
“It blew my ears out,” Mr Green agreed, pointing to his hearing aids.
Mr Barnett replied: “Well it deafened me too.”
They finished each other’s sentences as they recounted their mission on D-Day.
This was to escort a landing craft onto the beach, then return with the empty trooper.
Both men became emotional when describing what happened that afternoon, when their Canadian troops were shot by the Germans as they got to the beach.
Mr Green, his voice cracking, said: “To see the chaps who were dead in the water.
“I’m sorry, I get emotional when I think of it.”
Mr Barnett nodded as he continued: “We couldn’t do anything.
“We had picked them up the day before, in the afternoon, on the Isle of Wight.”
They then attempted to bring the trooper home.
“We left and were coming back to Portsmouth when the big ship in front of us exploded,” Mr Green said.
“She was gone in 15 minutes. The Maid of Orleans. There was 10 of the crew killed.
“We couldn’t pull them up because it would have taken us out of the convoy.”
Mr Barnett then asked Mr Green: “Do you remember that pilot we picked up?
“He created hell when we wouldn’t take him back to where he wanted to go.”
The men told how on June 7 they were going out to Mulberry Dock when they saw three Spitfires in the air – with one “keeling over” and the pilot bailing out.
Mr Green said: “We went and picked him up. We were escorting Mulberry Dock to Arromanches, we had to bring him with us there.
“Then we went up the channel to Greenwich.”
They said the pilot was “furious” he could not be returned directly to Britain and had to go via Normandy first.
Both Mr Barnett and Mr Green said they recognised photographs of each other when they were younger, but not as men in their 90s.
Asked about how they felt to be reunited 75 years on, Mr Green, of Wareham, said: “It is marvellous.”
Mr Barnett, of Christchurch – just 20 miles away from Wareham – added: “We have reminisced about what happened, what we did on board.
“I don’t know if you know this Ernie, but it is on record that we were the most used ship of our class during the war.”
Mr Green replied: “Yes – we were the busiest.”
They both looked at a photograph of HMS Redpole and pointed out their positions on D-Day.
As they parted to go to dinner, Mr Green kissed Mr Barnett’s wife Martha Barnett on the cheek and told her: “Look after him for me.”
Mrs Barnett said her husband of 66 years had always wanted to keep in touch with his comrades.
“Bob had had a problem with his elbow and he had to go to the medics to have it checked,” she said.
“When he returned back to the ship everyone had gone.
“It is only in recent years that he has started reliving the past.
“He is so pleased to have met somebody who knows what he went through.”
Both men will return to Normandy on Thursday, when they will attend a service of remembrance at Bayeux Cemetery.