Royal Naval veterans treated royally at D-Day celebrations

The Royal Naval Association enabled three of its D-Day veterans to attend the UK celebrations in Portsmouth on 5 June.

The veterans sat in the Royal Box and were treated to a conversation with His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness, Prince William, along with many other military dignitaries from the UK and overseas.

The event was to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which is lauded as the beginning of the end of WWII. Thousands of Allied forces stormed the beaches, cleared the skies and hunted U-boats in the English Channel to support this iconic moment in world history.

Among those brave souls working towards victory on that day was the Women’s Royal Naval Service’, Betty Withers, from Hertfordshire.

Betty said:

“I was stationed to Hayling Island, just outside Portsmouth. There were hundreds of troops on the island, maybe thousands. They were practicing landing on the beaches. I was a cook. One day we prepared all the boys their supper and then the next day we woke up to get breakfast ready and they were gone. I gave a lot of those men their last supper. It stays with you, that knowledge.”

Royal Navy veteran, Frank Cooper, from Middlesborough, made the pilgrimage to Portsmouth to mark this special anniversary. Frank was abord the U-boat hunter HMS Loch Fada. Their job was to protect the huge invading force from the underwater killers.

Frank said:

“I can’t see so good, and my hearings difficult, but you couldn’t have kept us away. I’m not a hero, them that didn’t come home are the heroes.”

WRNS veteran Vera Brett, from Kent, also attended the event.

Vera said:

“I did all sorts in the war. We didn’t know it was going to be the start of the attack on that day, but one of my friends said it might be a busy shift, and my goodness, she was right.”

The Royal Naval Association members each met the Royal Family and talked with them about their service.

Betty said:

“They were all lovely, and so friendly! King Charles had a laugh with me about the Jenny Wrens and how naughty we could be. Camilla looked beautiful in her pink outfit, and William, well, what a dish!”

The event was a musical spectacular, which included a Red Arrows display, a Typhoon jet, HMS St Albans sounding an offshore salute, with Dame Helen Mirren leading the proceedings with dignity and style. At the heart of the event were the stories of the servicemen who bravely defended their country and helped to liberate Europe. Of particular poignancy was a letter from one Officer to his young wife and children, which left very few dry eyes in the audience.

The Royal Naval Association thanks the RNRMC for its funding, which enables Royal Navy veterans to experience events such as this, when they otherwise would not be able.

If you have links to the Royal Navy, via service, family, or friendship, consider joining the Royal Naval Association for comradeship, connection and commemoration, and to help support veterans in their times of need.  www.royal-naval-association.co.uk/join-us/

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By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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