D-Day: The Veteran Who Volunteered Aged 17 ‘To Avenge His Brother’s Death At Dunkirk’

“I could not fire enough shells out of my gun”

A D-Day veteran has told how he volunteered to join the Royal Marines at the age of 17 to avenge his brother’s death at Dunkirk.

John Stanley Hyde, who signed up in 1940, is one of the 255 veterans on board the eight-deck cruise ship MV Boudicca, chartered by the Royal British Legion to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The weeklong ‘Voyage of Remembrance’ is taking the veterans to commemorative events on both sides of the English Channel.

For John, the voyage started on a particularly sombre note.

The 96-year-old veteran lost his older brother during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

John came back to the Commonwealth War Graves in Dunkirk 79 years later, to pay tribute to his brother, who had been operating the field kitchen on the evacuation of Dunkirk when a German bomber made a direct hit on his vehicle.

John said:

“I am afraid that was the end of my brother Frederick Richard Hyde … Obviously, he was blown to bits and his name is on the cenotaph at Dunkirk."

John Hyde pays his respects to his brother Frederick.

Every veteran on board the luxury liner took part in D-Day – the largest seaborne invasion in history which set the path to Allied victory, changing the course of not just the war but history.

On that historic day, John Hyde was a gunner on LCF Landing Craft Flak, protecting the Canadian troops going into Juno beach.

Rose placed by D-Day Veteran John Hyde at Dunkirk Memorial

Older brother Frederick Hyde had been a six-foot Grenadier Guard.

In the taxi, on the way to the memorial, John said he felt “quite sad … he was 26 years old.”

When John found out that his brother had been killed, he “more or less immediately went and signed up with the Royal Marines.”

He said:

“In my mind was how can I replay my brother’s death? So I volunteered for the Marines with revenge in my heart.

“I know it’s not a nice thing to do. I just volunteered and that’s what it says in my army papers ‘John Stanley Hyde – volunteer.’

“They killed my brother. I want to get one of you. That was all that was in my mind. Revenge.

“I could not fire enough shells out of my gun hoping that the end product will be a German life.”

MV Boudicca, named after the warrior Queen, sailed overnight from Dover, docking in Dunkirk the following morning.

The battle of Dunkirk and the evacuation of the northern French port was one of the most significant turning points of the Second World War, costing the lives of more 60,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force.

Although the bloodshed at Dunkirk had happened four years prior to D-Day, many of the veterans hold poignant memories of the Dunkirk evacuation, making the port of call a significant first stop on the voyage of remembrance.

On that historic day, John Hyde was a gunner on LCF Landing Craft Flak, protecting the Canadian troops going into Juno beach.

The D-Day gunner lovingly placed a poppy cross on the cenotaph that bears his brother’s name after spreading petals and kissing the monument.

John told how he had not spent as much time as he would have liked with his brother, who was a “ladies’ man” and preferred to spend his leave with a "lady-friend" in Slough instead of coming home.

“So, the only times I had seen him was in Windsor Castle walking up and down in his Grenadier beret.”

Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial in Dunkirk

D-Day veteran John, who had volunteered when he was 17 and a half, smiled as he added: “Which was six months before I should have done … I told a big lie.

“They asked for my birth certificate. I said I lost it.

“So, they believed me and put me down as 18 which was the legal age to join the forces.

“They were so short of men in those days. They were looking for men of all descriptions to fight the war.”

Many of the veterans on board the Royal British Legion ship have told how they volunteered and had joined before their 18th birthday. John said:

“I was very happy that I volunteered because the Germans were defeated by that.”

The nation is today showing its gratitude to the heroism of the D-Day veterans at a commemorative event in Portsmouth on June 5th, attended by The Queen, world leaders such as Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump, and hundreds of veterans.