Veterans honour comrades who fell in Normandy fight

Peter Clarke before placing his wreathe

Peter Clarke before placing his wreathe

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

VETERANS gathered at the RAF Harwell Memorial Stone from where the fallen comrades they remembered and honoured left British soil to fight in D-Day.

More than 350 people attended Saturday’s service, which took place at the stone marking the end of the runway of the former Second World War airfield from which six RAF Albemarle transport planes of the No 38 Group took off on the night of June 5.

Oxford Mail:

The standards are paraded

They carried 60 paratroopers from the 22nd Independent Company the Parachute Regiment, which served the 6th Airborne Division.

The first Allied troops to land in Normandy, they marked out drop zones and set up radio beacons for troops who arrived later.

On June 6, planes towing 30 gliders left RAF Harwell carrying members of the 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who captured the bridge across the Caen canal at Benouville – later renamed Pegasus Bridge.

Peter Clarke, 93, was a 23-year-old glider pilot in the G Squadron Glider Pilot Regiment at RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire.

Oxford Mail:

Ken Frere

He was detached to one of RAF Greenham Common’s satellite airfields at Hampstead Norris in April 1944 before being briefed for Operation Overlord. But Mr Clarke missed the Normandy landings because his co-pilot Jimmy Roberts was taken ill with jaundice and glandular fever the day before D-Day.

He said: “We had been briefed as to where we would land – just east of Ouistreham, which was the port for Caen – and we were all ready to go.

“But then my second pilot Jimmy Roberts was taken ill with jaundice and they stopped us.

“I stayed behind and was rather fed up. Quite honestly we’d trained for it and we had been looking forward to being used.”

Mr Clarke, who now lives in Abingdon, said that he still regrets not completing the flight, but added: “It was just one of those things that happens. Some go and some don’t.”

Oxford Mail:

Rev Pam Rolls conducts the service

Fellow veteran Ken Frere, who was based at RAF Brize Norton, was also waiting for D-Day as a heavy bomber pilot at RAF Broadwell, near Burford.

He served with 296 Squadron RAF which later formed 38 Wing and then expanded to create No 38 Group RAF.

The 91-year-old said: “I was standing by in case they needed any replacement pilots. They did need a reserve, and a colleague of mine went. He was shot down. One of the reasons I’m alive is because he went instead of me.”

The Abingdon resident said: “You just accept what life dishes out.

“At the time your only option was to believe that it’s not going to happen to you.”

The service saw Oxfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson, local officials, veterans and school children lay wreaths on the stone.

Didcot mayor Scott Wilgrove said: “It’s very important to remember D-Day. It’s not going to be long before there are no veterans left.”

The event organiser and parade marshall Peter Davies said: “It was amazing to see so many people and children taking part. It’s about linking the past to future generations.”

Our top stories:

Mum says Oxford Health let down son who escaped mental hospital

Oxford Mail: Ian McLean

9:00am Friday 30th January 2015

THE family of man who escaped a mental hospital, fled abroad then hanged himself in a prison cell have said he was let down by Oxford Health.

UPDATE: Snow and sleet forecast for Saturday in Oxfordshire

Oxford Mail: Ice warning for Sussex after more snow falls

12:06pm Thursday 29th January 2015

SNOW has been forecast for Oxfordshire over the weekend and a yellow weather warning is still in place for today.

Head ‘fobbed off’ over delayed Windmill Primary School extension

Oxford Mail: Windmill head teacher, Lynn Knapp

7:33pm Friday 30th January 2015

A HEADTEACHER at an Oxford primary school has claimed she is getting “fobbed off” by Oxfordshire County Council over questions about delayed construction work at the school.

Julia Knight appears in court charged with attempted murder of patient in Horton General Hospital

Oxford Mail:

4:14pm Friday 30th January 2015

A WOMAN charged with the attempted murder of a hospital patient today appeared in Oxford Crown Court.

Update: Man in court accused of £4.8m fraud at Mini plant

Oxford Mail: The production line for the mini at the BMW plant in Cowley as it looks now

3:50pm Friday 30th January 2015

A MAN has been accused of fraudulently pocketing £4.8m from the assembly and services division at the Mini plant in Cowley.

Oxfordshire County Council chief executive Joanna Simons to stand down in June - and will not be replaced

Oxford Mail: Joanna Simons

1:10pm Friday 30th January 2015

OXFORDSHIRE'S biggest local authority will scrap its top unelected position as part of a radical shake-up to save costs, it was revealed today.

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree