D-Day hero, 93, whoops with delight on adrenaline-pumping ride 75 years on06/05/2019
Albert Evans hangs on to his beret and whoops as the Royal Marine RIB bounces across the waves in high-speed donut turns.
“What a ride! How fantastic!” yells the old soldier, 93, the wind carrying away his excited cries.
Perched in the stern, two young marines watch admiringly as the pensioner from Dudley, West Midlands, takes the adrenaline-pumping ride in his stride.
But Albert doesn’t scare easily.
And nor do the 250 other 91 to 101-year-olds watching from the quayside and ship decks.
Seventy five years ago they dodged bullets, bombs and U-boat torpedoes as they stormed the coast of Normandy to turn the tide of the Second World War.
And today, as they sailed into the peaceful waters of Poole Harbour, this spirited band of brothers got a heroes’ welcome from today’s naval personnel.
The Royal British Legion-chartered MV Boudicca, which had sailed overnight from Dunkirk, was escorted into dock by three marine vessels as local children waved from the quayside.
After disembarking the veterans and their carers chatted to young service-men and inspected their modern kit.
Then Albert, who saw his Bren gunner pal Ernest being shot and killed in front of him in the weeks after D-Day, joined a handful of others taking thrilling boat rides.
On the quay former Royal Marine Commando Eric Carter, 94, of Birmingham, climbed up into an armoured vehicle.
Serving Marine Christopher Takacs of Charlie Company, 40 Commando, demonstrated a new grenade machine gun that fires 30 rounds a minute.
He said: “They’re our forefathers and we look up to them. They laid the foundations of what we are today especially in the D-Day landings.””
Impressed Mr Carter, who landed on Juno beach with Canadian troops on D-Day, said: “They weren’t like this in my day. It’s a nice piece of kit.”
Coxswains of 1 Assault Group’s 539 Assault Squadron and troops also showed off their kit before sharing stories with the D-Day heroes.
Veteran Trevor Stacey, Royal Marine of 47 Commando, chatted happily. Albert Barnes, 93, of Southend, Essex, inspected a modern weapon’s sights.
Royal Marines veteran Robert William Yaxley, 95, said: “I feel so lucky to be here. I landed on D-Day and went through to Germany without a scratch.It’s very important to mark this.”
Aboard the Boudicca, Gordon Highlander veteran James Glennie, 93, of Aberdeen, tried a modern assault gun.
The veterans are on a week long cruise marking the anniversary and will be in Portsmouth today for the official commemoration attended by the Queen and President Trump.
On Thursday they drop anchor off Gold Beach, Normandy, for services at Bayeux’s Cathedral and War Cemetery and a march-past in Arromanches.
Arthur Jones, 94, of Wolverhampton, drove a Sherman tank on to Gold Beach as he served with the 147th Essex Yeomanry. He said: “Another of our tanks had been blown up. The men hadn’t made it so I didn’t know what lay in store. I made it through though.”
Eyes welling up, he added: “I think I’m going to get emotional standing in the cemetery at Bayeux on Thursday with the chaps who didn’t come home.”
Arthur Bailey, 95, served with the 49th West Riding Infantry Division on D-Day then with the Paras at the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. He spoke to two local schoolchildren fascinated by his chest-full of medals.
Explaining what they were for, he told the girls: “A lot of men died in the war, there aren’t many of us left.”
He went on: “It’s lovely that they are showing an interest. Youngsters today don’t seem to know much about it. Perhaps this will spark new interest.”
Jack Mortimer, 95, from Leeds also made friends with a group of pupils.
Jack, a dispatch driver with the 12th Ordnance Beach Detachment, had transported ammunition and mortars in his jeep on D-Day.
But yesterday he stood surrounded by youngsters jigging away as they showed him the moves for toothless Grandpa Shark in the Baby Shark dance. He beamed: “Oh, how marvellous. I’ll have to remember this one.”
He added: “Today has been brilliant. I can’t really get the words out. It’s just tremendous to be welcomed like this.”
Back on the Boudicca the veterans enjoyed a talk from TV historian Peter Snow and were entertained by magician Lance Corporal Richard Jones, winner of Britain’s Got Talent in 2016.
L Cpl Jones, 28, who serves with the Household Cavalry, said: “This is a really wonderful event to be a part of.
“It is incredible and awe-inspiring to hear what these men went through on D-Day and throughout the war.
“They are clearly having a great time, making new friendships and renewing old ones and having a real laugh together.
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