Veterans have spoken of their pride at attending the D-Day 75th anniversary event in Portsmouth and said it will be an emotional chance to remember their comrades who did not return.
Sergeant John Jenkins, 99, from Portsmouth, is doing a reading at the National Commemorative Event attended by the Queen, US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders of other nations involved in the operation.
French President Emmanuel Macron, PM Theresa May, the Prince of Wales, #TheQueen, US President #DonaldTrump and Melania Trump during the #DDay75 commemorations in Portsmouth📷@AndyMatthews_PA pic.twitter.com/oVwBDPg3i3— PA Royal Reporters (@PARoyal) June 5, 2019
Mr Jenkins was serving with the Pioneer Corps on D-Day and landed on Gold Beach on June 8 in 1944.
“Obviously I will think of all my mates that didn’t come back,” he said.
“I can’t say any particular one because we were all comrades together, that was the thing.
“We were all comrades together and that’s what carries us through – the comradeship was really something quite marvellous.”
Mr Jenkins said he felt “overwhelmed” to be at the service and to be chosen to do a reading.
“It is something that will last in my memory for a long time,” he said.
Arthur Hampson, 93, from Merseyside, was a midshipman with the Royal Navy on D-Day, landing on Juno Beach.
“As the ramp went down, there was quite a lot of fire coming at us from the shore,” he said.
“We could see the red flashes coming from houses that the Germans were in on the waterfront.
“We were popping at the window where we could see that the enemy was shooting at us.”
He described the service as a “great experience” but said he did not regard himself as a hero.
Mr Hampson said that after D-Day, he returned to Portsmouth.
“I was having a quiet pint in a pub in Southsea,” he said.
“The past 24 hours seemed unreal. We were talking to people in the pub and I think they didn’t believe a word we were saying.”
Les Hammond, 94, from Northampton, a craftsman in the 86 Anti-tank Regiment, who was 19 when he landed on Juno Beach, said: “It’s quite emotional I suppose, I didn’t think I would feel like this but I do.
“I am very much a royalist and I am proud of my country. I intend to live a few more years and have nice memories of today.”
Alfred Fuzzard, 97, from Bexhill-On-Sea, East Sussex, a former petty officer in the Royal Navy who grew up in Portsmouth and who landed on Sword Beach, said: “I wouldn’t have missed D-Day for the world. The weather was a bit rough when we went over but it calmed down when we got close to the beach.
“I think it’s lovely, I am a fan of Trump actually, I would like to see him as prime minister of this country, shake the bunkers up.
“Trump has been good for his people but the trouble is that before he opens his mouth, he should think. I would like to meet him because I will ask him if he’s immigrating.
“I don’t know what lessons you can learn, it’s up to politicians, they drag us into wars don’t they. We belong to a great nation and the finest fighting people in the world I think. I have seen some very brave men and it’s been wonderful here to meet all these old people and what they gave.
“In an operation you only see your part, you don’t see what is going on around you whereas here you can hear other people’s stories and it’s been bloody marvellous.”