YOUNG Stanley Cox was forced to hide behind a sea wall to escape the onslaught of German bullets and shells on the Normandy beaches.

Now a great-grandfather of 13, the 88-year-old is today back in France to remember comrades who weren’t so lucky.

Mr Cox, who was born in East Hagbourne where he still lives, set sail from Southampton on June 5, 1944, as a trooper in the Sherwood Rangers regiment.

The retired grocery store manager said: “I remember it all. The landing craft we were on was like a shoebox and the sea was so rough it crashed up and down – a lot of people were seasick.”

When they arrived in France Mr Cox was picked to lay out the coconut matting meant to help the tanks roll through the shallow water.

But the team hit trouble when their tank was spotted by the German army near the next French town of Tilley four days later.It was hit by a German shell and caught fire.

Mr Cox said: “I was the last one out and just as I jumped I was hit by shrapnel and fell behind the tank. I remember lying there and the tank was rolling towards me.

“Luckily, it stopped before it reached me. Then two others came back and dragged me away. The tank caught fire so I remember thinking I could have been roasted alive. I don’t know what happened then, I must have passed out.”

Mr Cox has visited Normandy a number of times since the war ended.

He said he did it as part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return scheme, to pay tribute to his fallen comrades and visit their graves.