ON the night before D-Day, Vernon Jones should have been celebrating his 21st birthday with friends.

Instead he was crossing the English Channel with thousands of others ready to storm the beaches of Normandy in France.

Mr Jones, who lives in Steventon near Abingdon, celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday but still vividly remembers the events of June 6, 1944.

He said: “I never thought much about my birthday. I was very apprehensive, like everyone else.

“We landed at breakfast time, but I could not eat anything that morning. I packed it in my pouch to have after we had landed.

“It was very nerve-wracking. I was too young to die.”

Mr Jones was part of the second landing team and was tasked with unloading equipment as his colleagues fought to take the beachhead.

He said: “We landed in the exact spot we had trained to land for three years.

“But the beach had every obstacle you could think of and there was only just enough room for us to land.

“We had a lot of practice but when it comes to it in reality, it is not the same. But it is funny, you are not afraid. You are there, you have got to do it.

“I was 21, at an age when I should have been out enjoying myself, but I survived. I was lucky.”

Mr Jones, the son of a miner, was brought up in South Wales but moved to Abingdon with his family in 1931. After attending what is now Carswell Community School, he was called up and joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, based at Cowley Barracks.

But during training he contracted tonsillitis and was sent home. When he returned his regiment had already graduated and he joined 2nd Battalion, The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, which was called upon to take part in the Normandy landings.

Following D-Day, Mr Jones fought across France, Belgium and Holland and into Germany, but was injured in February 1945.

He said: “I was taking a lad back to the first-aid station – he had part of his foot blown off – and we hit a mine.

“He and another chap looking after him were both killed. I do not know what happened to me because the next thing I knew I was in hospital.”

Yesterday, he celebrated his 90th birthday with wife Hilda, who he married in 1954, and his three surviving siblings. He has no children.

Mr Jones added: “If it were not for my generation and Hitler had taken over, I hate to think what the world would be like today.”