Royal Marine Commandos 47 RM Commando during Normandy D-Day landings
D-Day

'I Was One Of The Lucky Ones': D-Day Veterans Talk Openly About Historic Beach Landings

D-Day veterans have spoken of their efforts during the Normandy beach landings.

Royal Marine Commandos 47 RM Commando during Normandy D-Day landings

Troops from 47 Royal Marine Commando during Normandy D-Day landings (Picture: PA).

D-Day veterans have spoken of their pride in taking part in the operation which led to the liberation of occupied Europe.

Speaking on board HMS St Albans at Portsmouth Naval Base, after the Ministry of Defence (MOD) released the itinerary of how they are marking the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, a group of three nonagenarians recalled the decisive battle that changed the course of the Second World War.

Watch: HMS St Albans to lead D-Day 75 salute to Normandy invasion veterans.

Eric Strange, 95, from Crawley, West Sussex, was a Sub Lieutenant in the Navy who sailed over from Portsmouth to land at Sword Beach on 6 June 1944.

He said his main feeling during D-Day was "surprise that we were still there at the end of the day because we were lucky".

Eric Strange D Day Veteran
Royal Navy veteran Eric Strange: "I was one of the lucky ones."

"We didn't sleep very much, to be honest, going over was alright, we had a good night's sleep going over, the actual night was rather noisy, I remember being very seasick as well, a bit rough.

"We felt we couldn't lose."

He added: "Our job was if things had gone wrong, we there to lift off as many troops as we could, fortunately, things didn't go wrong so we weren't overworked. That was OK, so we just laid there being sick all morning.

"I was one of the lucky ones."

Royal Marine Commandos going ashore during D-Day
Royal Marine Commandos moving towards the shore on D-Day (Picture: PA).

Greg Hayward, from Wimborne, Dorset, served as an Engineer in the Royal Air Force and was involved in servicing the aircraft that was used in the operation.

The 93-year-old, who was a Leading Aircraftman at the time, said: "Aircraft were operating all over Normandy beaches, we saw them off and we saw them back and serviced them in between. We weren't actually personally in the landing as we were waiting to go out on a later date.

Greg Hayward RAF Veteran D Day
Greg Hayward (right) served with the RAF during the Normandy landings.

"It's very interesting looking back, I was only 18. At the time I wasn't thinking of it as a great adventure but obviously of course it was a great affair.

"Being here today I am lucky to be able to say I am here now and was there then."

Leonard Williams, from Arreton, Isle of Wight, served as a Lance Corporal in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and left the Army as a Colour Sergeant.

He arrived in Normandy aged 17 as part of a later wave of troops.

He said: "In those days, as a kid, literally as a kid, you see everything different, now you can weigh up what you think about it, but then 'Big deal, get to go over the top, sort the Germans out'. Rubbish. Different attitude altogether. Ended the war virtually, didn't it, with the assistance of the Americans."

D-Day 74 ceremony with A-10 Thunderbolt and C-130 Hercules over Normandy beach
A-10 Thunderbolt and C-130 Hercules over Normandy beach during the 74th anniversary of D-Day (Picture: US Air Force).

The 93-year-old later suffered three bullet wounds as he was crossing the Rhine on his 19th birthday.

He said: "I got a bullet across the knuckles, one in the knee and one in the foot, from about eight yards' range and that was me to the end of the war in a hospital in Ghent, Belgium."

Watch: Alfred Thomas Smith survived Dunkirk and was back in France for the D-Day landings four years later.

Warrant Officer Mick Gentry, who is the Navy's area recruiting manager for the London area, said he was "very proud" of his father, Ted, who was in the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and landed on Sword Beach on D-Day.

He said he was "very proud" of his father's role.

"The 75th anniversary for me is a chance to recognise what my dad and his fellow soldiers, sailors and airmen did and what they did for our country and what they did for the world, freeing the world and keeping us in the free democracy we live in today."