Two veterans who lived through the D-Day Landings in Normandy in June 1944 were honoured at an event at their care home near Leamington to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the historic event.
Victor Whistler, 91, who was in the Royal Air Force, and Howard Rose, 90, who was a Royal Marine Commander, were both survivors of the landings and now both live at Bromson Hill care home in Ashorne, which threw a ‘street party’ to give residents and staff a chance to reflect on the event.
Mr Whistler, who was brought up in Norfolk, volunteered to join the RAF at the age of 18 and was in Chichester on the day the landings started on June 6 1944. He has shared with his family memories of seeing the aircraft flying overhead and being told the next day to pack his kit and get ready to move.
Two days later, the 21-year-old was in France. He remembers watching the HMS Belfast shelling the Germans from the sea and how the force of the shelling made the boat he was on rock from side to side; watching rockets being fired from barges; and watching the missiles coming down “like rain”.
Speaking to the Courier this week, Mr Whistler said: “I remember a lot of fast movement. You didn’t have any feelings. The only thing you do is look after yourself the best you can.
“I remember getting off the beach and I remember the fear. I was thinking about getting off the beach as quickly as I could.”
After D-Day, Mr Whistler witnessed the liberation of the concentration camp Bergen Belson in Germany and continued to serve around Europe and North Africa, before being demobbed in Wolverhampton. He earned five medals during his time in service.
The now great-grandfather, who has during the past decade twice re-visited the very beach in Normandy where the landings took place, said: “When the war was over, you didn’t have any feeling. You couldn’t believe it. But I was glad to get home.”
Howard Rose was brought up on a farm near Leamington and volunteered to join the Royal Marines when he was 18. He started off as a sniper and trained in Scotland and Portsmouth and was 20 at the time of the D-Day Landings. By the end of the war he had earned three medals.
He told the Courier: “I was shooting. I don’t remember an awful lot, but I remember us being up to our chests in water on the beach.
“The memories come back sometimes when I am dreaming. I dream a lot.”
Both veterans took part in the commemorative event at Bromson Hill on Wednesday, which included food from the era, an entertainer who performed songs of the time and staff wearing period outfits.